Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Yasser Arafat, CTD
That's "Circling the Drain."
Andrew has already linked to Daniel Pipes's "Arafat's Bedroom Farce." In a nutshell:
The mise-en-scène is as preposterous as what came before, only much funnier. First, there is the wife, Suha, a Greek Orthodox convert to Islam who nonetheless continued to observe Christian holidays and now bellows out "Allahu Akbar" as she spends a reputed $100,000 a month living the good life in Paris. Then there are the long-suffering minions, hoping to get their day in the sun, free at last of their irascible, unpredictable, domineering leader. Finally, there are the hapless French politicians, stung by their own stupidity in sending a military plane to Jordan to retrieve Arafat to Paris, then treating him like royalty (including a courtesy visit by President Jacques Chirac), only to find themselves parties to his death-bed antics.

(via Backspin) And the Baltimore Sun features another look at the pampered revolutionaries:
Some Arafat aides reacted to his wife's tirade with an outburst of their own, threatening to leave Paris if they were so unwanted, but that plan seemed to dissolve as soon as they realized that that would be fine with her.

They were reduced to milling around the plush lobby of the Intercontinental Le Grand Hotel on Rue Scribe, near the Garnier Opera House, as they conferred in corners and talked on cellular phones, breaking occasionally to complain to reporters about Suha Arafat's behavior - careful to criticize the performance and not the performer.

They occasionally lapsed into wondering aloud whether they ought to go home after all. They drank $14 cups of coffee, chain-smoked and sank into red, velvety chairs and couches.

But they insisted that this first big test of their leadership in what might soon be a post-Arafat world was not a failure.

On a more serious note Pipes, yesterday, wrote "Arafat's Last Threat to Israel?" It follows the basic argument of Jackson Diehl (and others): Once Arafat is dead, President Bush will start pressuring Israel again. Unlike Diehl, Pipes is not at all amused about this prospect.
The combination of Mr. Bush's stunning new mandate and Mr. Arafat's near-death condition will lead, I predict, to a quick revival of Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy after months of relative doldrums and to massive dangers to Israel.

The doldrums will cease because the Bush administration views Mr. Arafat as the main impediment to achieving its vision - articulated above by the president - of achieving a "Palestine" living in harmony side-by-side with Israel. As Mr. Arafat exits the political stage, taking with him his stench of terrorism, corruption, extremism, and tyranny, Washington will jump to make its vision a reality, perhaps as soon as this Thursday, when the British prime minister ("I have long argued that the need to revitalize the Middle East peace process is the single most pressing political challenge in our world today") comes to town.

This observer expects that the president's efforts will not just fail but - like so much prior Arab-Israeli diplomacy - have a counterproductive effect.

Though I supported President Bush, in part because I felt he would be better towards Israel than Senator Kerry, I expected at some point that the President would make demands on Israel that I do not agree with. But I also think that the situation is not as grim as Dr. Pipes does. For one thing, even Dr. Pipes has written that what's important is not what President Bush says about the Middle East, rather what he does.

Unlike President Clinton, I don't expect that President Bush will give the Palestinians much leeway. If he demands withdrawals from Israel, he will demand compliance from the Palestinians and he will take Israeli complaints seriously. It may not be what I want for Israel, but the Palestinians will have to get their house in order if they want the magic American "evenhandedness" (ie pressure on Israel).

Despite his fears Pipes writes at the end:
In conclusion, Israel has been spared from unremitting American pressure during the past three years only because Mr. Arafat continued to deploy the terrorism weapon, thereby alienating the American president and aborting his diplomacy. Thanks to growing anarchy in the Palestinian Arab territories, Israel will probably remain "lucky" for some time to come.

One last point. Pipes also writes about succession here:
Situation on the ground: There will be no successor to Mr. Arafat - he made sure of that through his endless manipulations, tricks, and schemes. Instead, this is the moment of the gunmen. Whether they fight for criminal gangs, warlords, security services, or ideological groups like Hamas, militiamen grasping for land and treasure will dominate the Palestinian scene for months or years ahead. The sort of persons familiar from past diplomacy or from TV commentaries - Mahmoud Abbas, Ahmed Qurei, et al. - lack gunmen, and so will have limited relevance going forward.

The Palestinian territories have already descended into a hellish anarchy and circumstances will probably worsen as the strongmen struggle for power. Eventually, two of them will emerge with the ability to negotiate with the Israelis and Americans.

Note, two of them. The geographic division of the West Bank and Gaza, of only minor import until now, looms large upon Mr. Arafat's passing. As Jonathan Schanzer has suggested, whoever rules in the one unit is unlikely to gain traction in the other, making the notion of a "Palestine" that much more difficult to promote.

Two Palestines, anyone?

Since Arafat ran the PA more as a crime family than as a revolutionary movement, it is the fellows with the most firepower who will succeed him.

To my mind the most likely strongman to take over is Mohammed Dahlan. He has parlayed his control of Gaza into a fortune. He has protected Hamas and thus has good relations with them. And no doubt he has plenty of loyal gunmen at his side. He had fallen out with Arafat, but that just might be a function of his popularity being seen as a threat to the Ra'is. Finally he's a bit of a media darling. I don't expect the chaos in Gaza, but that Dahlan will systematically take over Gaza with his private army.

A month ago there was an attempt on the life Yasser's cousin, Moussa:
General Arafat, a cousin of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, is one of the most controversial figures in the Gaza Strip. His appointment last July as overall commander of the National Security Forces triggered a wave of unprecedented protests, with many Palestinians accusing him of being corrupt and brutal.

During the protests, Fatah militiamen and supporters of former PA security minister Mohammed Dahlan attacked and torched offices belonging to General Arafat's men in the southern Gaza Strip.

Sources in the Gaza Strip pointed out that this was not the first attempt on General Arafat's life. Already back in 1996, masked gunmen fired several shots at his home after holding him responsible for torturing detainees. Since then Arafat has reportedly survived several assassination attempts.

Even when the Ra'is was alive (and maybe not well) Dahlan had the guts to defy him. (OK, it was his people, but they felt safe attacking Moussa.) Presumably, he was also behind the assassination attempt.

Though Dahlan has cultivated a sophisticated image with a number of journalists his hands are not clean. He was implicated in the attack on the school bus near Kfar Darom that killed Gavriel Biton and Mirian Amitai as well as severely wounding the children from the Cohen family. He also is a good friend of Yihye Ayash's (the Engineer) deputy Mohammed Dief and probably was largely responsible for Dief's being able to evade justice for so long.

Israel won't exactly be getting George Washington with Dahlan. The best Israel can hope for from him is stability. We'll see.

If there's a leader to emerge in Judea and Samaria, (assuming two parallel leaders as Pipes does) my money would be on Jibril Rajoub. Again he's a former security chief with dirty money, bloody hands (a nice shampoo collection), some popular support and lots of guns.
Crossposted on Israpundit and Soccer Dad

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