Jewish World Review Dec. 19, 2002 / 14 Teves, 5763
Saudis still play
Santa to Arafat
Israel isn't going to let Yasser Arafat celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem this year. That's because the Palestinian leader has
been a very bad boy. But don't worry, Santa is coming --- and not from the North Pole, either.
Since Arafat walked away from a peace deal with Israel and started a war in September 2000, the Saudi Santa and his little
helpers have given the Palestinian leader vast sums of money. One of those helpers is Ahmed Mohammed Ali, president of the
Saudi-based Islamic Development Bank. The other day, he told an Egyptian newspaper that his bank has channeled hundreds of
millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority and to special funds whose purpose is "extending support to the Palestinian
Recently, Mahmoud Abbas (known as Abu-Mazen), Arafat's chief deputy, gave an amazingly candid analysis of what this money
has bought. He told an audience in Gaza that the intifadeh has led to "the complete destruction of everything we have built
[under the Oslo Agreement with Israel] ... our people are in a situation of loss, starvation and suffering" (translation by Middle
East Media Research Institute).
The Palestinians don't need Abu-Mazen to tell them the intifadeh has been a failure. For that, they can look out the window. But
until now, no senior official dared utter this simple truth in public.
"This is a tragedy," Abu-Mazen said of the Palestinian miscalculation that Israel wouldn't fight back. "We must ask ourselves
"Why" is the most charged word in political Arabic. The only acceptable answer is: Because of them. The Jews are always
responsible. Or the Americans. The Arab world is a fault-free zone.
The Palestinians who heard Abu-Mazen or read his remarks in Al Hayat understood that he was pointing an accusatory finger at
his boss. Arafat is the man who gave the order. Abu-Mazen wants that order rescinded. He proposes going back to the
negotiating table - and, according to recent polling, a majority of Palestinians tend to agree with him. But Arafat is no longer
interested in public opinion. He and his Hamas and Islamic Jihad allies evidently intend to go down fighting.
This scenario is being underwritten by outsiders. Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein sends millions to pay the pensions of suicide
bombers. Iran, via Hezbollah, provides training and whoops of encouragement. Syria shelters Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian
factions. Lately, even Osama Bin Laden has been trying to get in on the action. In the Arab world, no one can resist jumping on
a bandwagon, especially when it's headed over a cliff.
But if the intifadeh has many foreign benefactors, the Saudis are still the Great Santa. Thanks largely to the House of Saud and
its charitable bankers and donors, every day is Christmas for Arafat - and the rest of the Palestinian people get a stocking full of
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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, NY Daily News