No matter what one thinks of Yasser Arafat and his regime; no matter
how much one laments the unprecedented levels of corruption, incompetence, and
thugishness; there are important new realities that need to be taken into consideration as
Whereas the previous Labor government thought they could use and
manipulate Arafat and his associates, eventually possibly setting up a rump
"Palestinian State" under their control -- one that would in reality have
Palestinians on Reservations or Bantustans but which could be trumpeted nonetheless as
"self-determination" allowing Israel to establish closer relations with the Arab
regimes and create a "New Middle East" -- Likud is a bit different.
Likud prefers to not only undermine Palestinian independence but to
undermine even the illusions that Labor preferred to promote.
Likud is essentially giving Arafat and company this basic choice:
either fully cooperate with Israel, and with the Hashemite regime in Jordan, bring the
Palestinian population under full control, quash Hamas and all opposition, and in return
administer autonomously your population centers with Israel's blessings and support...or
maybe we'll decide we don't really need you.
In order to cajole and squeeze Arafat even further then he is
already compromised, the Israelis are using a variety of new pressures:
1) Millions promised Arafat are being transferred more slowly -- a
symbolic showing that the Arafat regime is totally dependent on the Israelis no matter
what Arafat says in public.
2) The U.S. Congress has again closed the PLO office in Washington
-- a symbolic warning that Israel can change US policy toward Arafat if it wants to.
3) Private Arafat bank accounts, once secret and holding hundreds of
millions of dollars under Arafat's personal control, are no longer accessible without
specific Israeli approval; there is even some anxiety Arafat might one day try to flee
into exile again in an effort to rebuilt his image and free himself from an increasingly
4) One of Arafat's most senior associates is being rumored as a
possible rival and successor -- whether these rumors reflect actual Israeli policies at
this time or are disinformation designed to put greater pressure on Arafat, is debatable.
Rajoub, one of the top Arafat "intelligence" operatives widely known for his
brutish style, is being manipulated as a threat to Arafat's personal rule -- a way of
telling "the Chairman" he's not indispensable and better do what he's told or
else. It is known that Rajoub has visited the U.S. a number of times in recent years and
that he has developed close relations with the both CIA and Israeli intelligence.
5) The Israelis have even leaked news stories that hit squads --
similar to those of the 1970s which assassinated quite of number of PLO personalities in
Europe and the Middle East -- have again been secretly established and that should
fighting break out between the Israeli Army and Arafat's "Palestinian Authority"
they could be used. Again a means of further squeezing and frightening Arafat.
6) All the while Israeli settlement expansion, coupled with
demolition of Palestinian housing, continues with the goal of further weakening and
discrediting Arafat while making anything even approximating a real "Palestinian
Partly in order to foil Labor plans to push forward with Arafat
toward a rump "Palestinian State" when they come back to power -- something the
Americans and many influential American Jews close to the Clinton Administration are
desperate to bring about -- Likud policy is extremely Machiavellian.
If they can cajole and force Arafat to destroy Hamas and all
Palestinian opposition -- preferably through a Palestinian civil war that devastates
Palestinian society -- fine indeed. The Israelis have been trying to quash the Intifada,
demoralize the Palestinians, and bring about Palestinian acquiesce to Israeli rule and
acceptance of "autonomy" for decades. Likud, even Ariel Sharon who is
masterminding much that is going on these days, is not beyond embracing Arafat as their
own under such circumstances. Even though many independent writers and analysts -- Noam
Chomky and Edward Said among them -- have very persuasively outlined how Arafat has been
already been twisted into a collaborator, this hasn't gone far enough for the Sharon-wing
of Israeli politics now in charge.
It may be though that Netanyahu and Sharon have made the decision in
fact that Arafat lacks the strength and/or the ability to fully control Palestinian
society, and that it would be too dangerous to leave him in place to work with Labor again
toward the devilishly seductive deal of a "Palestinian State" -- even if it
would be more Apartheid-like than independent. Either way the Israelis are now positioned
to get Arafat to agree to their terms in a kind of new post-Oslo reformulation, or
alternatively to bring about Arafat's demise leaving the Palestinians politically
leaderless or with strong-man Rajoub brought to power in anticipation he will be even more
ruthless and corrupt, destroying all Palestinian opposition so long as power and money are
centralized in his hands.