Throughout the period of post-Oslo euphoria, the consistent theme sounded by
Israel's left and their cheering section abroad was that "you make peace with
your enemies, not your friends."
There was a certain logic to that; obviously, violent conflicts are not
conducted by allies. The correct rejoinder was to state that one made peace with
former enemies, not those still engaged in the business of war. But that point
rarely made the same impact as the original slogan.
The intervening decade of Palestinian terrorism and broken promises took most
of the air out of the peace-camp balloon. But the human capacity for holding
on to hope, as well as for self-deception, should never be underestimated.
After three years of a bloody intifada, many on the left are back to their old
tricks we're hearing more and more about how Israel must make more
concessions to achieve that elusive final peace with the Palestinians.
A so-called "Geneva Initiative" was recently reached by a few failed Israeli
politicians with some of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's underlings. This
ploy, paid for and promoted by the Swiss and other Europeans who are hostile
to Israel, added on to the concessions offered by former Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Barak in 2000. Even Barak has been quoted as saying that the thing is
Another initiative is a petition promoted by Ami Ayalon, a former Israeli
Both these efforts have gained the applause of the world and been
relentlessly promoted by the Western news media.
DEATH, TAXES AND ARAFAT
The problem is, they are doomed to fail, just as the Oslo accords and all
those plans put forward before and since were similarly doomed. If there is
anything in this life that is certain, other than death and taxes, it's that Arafat
and the empire of terror, corruption and hate he created will thwart all
efforts for peace. All the goodwill in the world will not change this.
Despite the hot air expended promoting the various plans, most people in the
United States don't seem to understand the Palestinian leader too well.
That makes the new biography of Arafat by think-tank scholar Barry Rubin and
his wife, journalist Judith Colp Rubin, Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography,
essential reading for anyone hoping to comprehend the situation.
The couple, who has been studying their subject for decades, assert that the
rejection of Barak's peace offer at Camp David in July 2000 is the key to t
heir thesis about Arafat. Had his primary goal been to establish a Palestinian
state and improve the situation of his people, then he would have said yes to
that offer, or to the even better deal offered several months later at Taba,
Egypt. But his refusal left them with no alternative but to conclude that he was
primarily a "romantic revolutionary."
His career has been, they assert, a remarkable paradox. He has been the
unchallenged leader of the Palestinians for decades; he also created the paradigm
for modern terrorism, and managed the incredible feat of simultaneously
carrying out mass murder while garnering sympathy from the Western press.
But his brethren have gotten little from this. The authors write that the
"ultimate irony" of Arafat's life is that "the man who did more than anyone else
to champion and advance the Palestinian cause also inflicted years of
unnecessary suffering on his people, delaying any beneficial redress of their
grievances or solutions to their problems."
The book shows that Arafat has repeated the same pattern in every chapter of
his life. His goal is to give the other side the impression that just one more
concession is all that's needed to achieve peace. After he receives that
concession, he asks for more. He is a great negotiator, able to wear down his
opponents. But the man doesn't know how to say yes, and has let every chance for a
deal go by the wayside.
Part of this is his well-established habit of using front groups which he
pretends are radical dissident factions to do the dirty work for him. That
makes Arafat look "moderate," and literally allows him to get away with murder.
The most famous example of this was the so-called "Black September"
terrorist group that carried out the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre. That pattern was
repeated in the last three years with the establishment of the Al Aksa Martyrs
Brigade to carry out terrorism against Israelis. Reputable news organizations
still carry Arafat's condemnations of their atrocities without noting that he
is the paymaster and ultimate commander of the group.
Despite the siege imposed on him by Israel, he has maintained his mafia-like
control over virtually every aspect of Palestinian life. Those who imagine
that an alternative leadership might emerge while he's alive are kidding
AN IMMOVABLE OBSTACLE
And that's where the latest talk about peace runs straight into a brick wall.
As the couple's scholarship illustrates, Arafat is obsessed not with founding
a nation, but by the fear that history will portray him as the man who "sold
Palestine to the Jews." By that, he means legitimizing the Jewish presence in
any part of the country, including Israel in its pre-1967 borders.
He is, therefore, the primary and immovable obstacle to any chance of peace.
That means that the Bush administration policy seeking to eliminate him from
the peace process is quite right. But given the fact that all proposed
alternatives to him are mere feints, the administration's push for Israeli concessions
to encourage such alternatives are as wrong-headed as their conclusions about
Arafat are correct.
Someday, Arafat will die, and that may change things. It is possible that his
successors will be better. But given the dynamic of hate for Israel and Jews
that has governed Palestinian life especially education under Arafat,
there is little reason for optimism. Arafat's legacy of rejectionism may well
doom peace efforts for the foreseeable future and beyond.
That is not a comforting thought, and I don't doubt that many will continue
chipping away at Israel's bargaining position to reach an objective that simply
cannot be achieved. Such persons will accuse the realists of dooming the
Jewish people to endless conflict. But the truth is, that choice has already been
made by the other side.