I suppose Yasir Arafat’s death and the reaction on “the Palestinian street” will give rise to a few discussions about the concept of political “irrelevance”. Benny Morris starts.
Writing in the New York Times, the recently turned hawkish Israeli historian and author of “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem“, is already missing the man, in spite of his past.

Mr. Arafat’s death most certainly will result in a succession struggle, between the generations inside the Fatah and between the Fatah and the Islamic fundamentalist parties (which may lead to complete anarchy in the Hamas stronghold of Gaza). But it is unclear whether it will bring the Middle East any closer to peace. His disappearance removes a major rejectionist obstacle from the scene.

But it also leaves us with a paradox. For Mr. Arafat was probably the only Palestinian of our time, given his historical and political stature, capable of persuading the Palestinians, or most of them, to accept the concessions necessary to achieve a two-state solution. On the other hand, his successors – Mahmoud Abbas, Ahmed Qurei and some of the younger Fatah leaders – may be more amenable to a territorial compromise but they lack the stature to intimidate or persuade their people to accept a two-state settlement or to crush their terror-minded colleagues. So Yasir Arafat’s death may have done us no good at all.

9 thoughts on “Irrelevance.

  1. Without wishing to oversimplify the situation, it depends on whether the new moderate leader can win the support of the Palestinian people.

  2. LeVine’s critique is yet another lame attack on the wall, – a construction that has demonstrated its efficacy. In fact, the wall might be even more effective in bringing peace than any diplomatic effort.

    But I, too, doubt that peace can prosper there. There are too many vested interests in the Middle East and Europe who need to have the conflict continue. They will continue to fund the extremists, simply because an American-brokered peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians would be a defeat for Islamofascists, – and some Europeans.

  3. RSN
    I notice a well balance answer. you must be born yesterday and fed with some Fox news only cereals.
    Move your ass. Go beyond the headlines.

  4. The author makes the assumption that the Palestinian people would need to be persuaded by their leadership.

    Considering that the Palestinian leadership has always been nothing more than a pack of terrorists with little regard for the domestic situation of the Palestinian people, I think it’s wrong to assume that it’s the Palestinian people who would need to be brought around.

    The point is, Arafat has always been the only face of Palestine. No one knows what the “Palestinian street” really thinks, probably not even the Arafat gang.

  5. “The point is, Arafat has always been the only face of Palestine”

    There was, at one point, a Palestinian leader who was quite promising: Hanan Ashrawi. In the first Intifada of 1988-91, this West Bank lawyer took it upon herself to start negotiating with Israel in a balanced, civilized way. The Israelis were impressed enough to be persuaded that Palestinians can develop reasonable leadership.

    What distinguished Ashrawi was that she was simply a middle class person, living in the West Bank (not a terrorist on the run), tired of all the violence, who sought to put an end to it. She was in the news all the time; she was a new face of Palestine.

    Then came Oslo, and the idea that the PLO terrorists must be included in the leadership. I remember reading one commentator describing the scene of the PLO leaders riding across the border from Sinai to Gaza, after Oslo was signed. The sight of the jeeps with the terrorists firing guns in the air, – the complete macho bravado that was put on display – convinced the commentator that Ashrawi didn’t have a chance in a government run by these thugs.

    She resigned shortly afterwards.

  6. As always the NYT is a bit more stiff in its selection of opinions than for example an Israeli newpaper like Haaretz.

    Try this for another view.

  7. I’ll disagree with Benny Morris on this (as I do on many other things). Arafat had the popular legitimacy that came from being the “father of the struggle,” but if Abu Mazen wins an election – especially one contested by the Islamist factions – then he’ll have constitutional legitimacy. The caretaker leadership’s insistence on carrying out the election by the letter of the law, and its invitation to national dialogue, are good signs in this respect. They may fail, but nobody’s indispensable, Arafat least of all.

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