Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
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An analysis of the circles that Arafat has been running in since returning from exile after the Oslo Accords.
Without delving into the reasons why, it can be said that the Palestinian (and Arab) street believes in armed conflict, and revels in the sound of gunfire. When Israel began procrastinating in carrying out its obligations under Oslo (from the PA’s point of view), Arafat’s popularity among his people suffered especially after the PA’s corruption and administrative breakdown became obvious.
What was important in this respect was that neither Arafat nor the PA made the effort to clarify the provisions of the Oslo agreement to ordinary Palestinians; they failed to convince the people that there were ways to take advantage of the agreement. They also failed to inform them of Oslo’s limitations.
That was the biggest and most crucial dilemma Arafat faced. The Palestinian leader found it easy to repeat the same old rhetoric he was used to even while he was sleeping, eating and moving about courtesy of the Israelis.
This failure and lack of awareness resulted in increased popularity for Islamist movements, especially Hamas, which cunningly combined criticism of the PA with comprehensive social and military programs.
At that point, Arafat had a choice. He could either have confronted the Islamist resistance movements or he could have improved the PA’s performance and opened up to the people. He could, of course, also have resigned. Yet he continued believing that he could somehow turn the situation to his advantage by using the threat posed by Hamas to scare the Americans and the Israelis into hurrying to his aid and implementing the Oslo agreement.
The result of this policy, however, was that Arafat fell into another trap. Israel began demanding that he implement the agreement from its perspective by fighting terrorism and destroying its organizations and infrastructure.
Arafat now found himself in a real bind: If he confronted the resistance, he would ignite a Palestinian civil war. If, on the other hand, he failed to implement Israel’s interpretation of Oslo, then it would have no further use for him. That was the theory. The reality was even worse. If civil war had broken out, it would not have been clear-cut: many of Arafat’s supporters hated Israel and secretly supported the resistance, although their official responsibilities dictated otherwise. But failing to deal with violence allowed Israel to implement those Oslo clauses that gave it the right of hot pursuit of militants inside PA-controlled areas.
When the situation deteriorated, Arafat’s Fatah Movement was forced to go along with popular sentiment by publicly endorsing the armed struggle and suicide bombings. More schizophrenia for the Palestinian leader.
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