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                 THE ARAFAT DISASTER

MER - Washington - 3/20/00:  The "Authority" of Yasser Arafat, the newest of the "client regimes" installed in the Middle East, would be such a laugh if it were not so historically tragic.

Arafat's corrupt, repressive, and mediocre negotiators are coming back to Washington this week trapped with agreements and in a process that they are now both unable and unwilling to free themselves from.  Their handlers, money-men, and consultants have prepared the way toward the "final settlement" -- most of these in tow with the Israeli-Jewish lobby itself which completely dominates the Clinton Administration on matters Middle-Eastern and twists the Arafat regime to its will, no matter how much the public pretense is otherwise.

Inept, corrupt, repressive -- those who know Arafat and friends best know that these are mild adjectives that only hint at how badly the destitute Palestinian people have been misled from one tragedy to the next by those who have squandered not only billions of dollars but the very legacy of basic Palestinian rights.

Still "represented" by Hassan Rahman in Washington -- a petty little man who has stolen millions for himself over the years -- and constantly manipulated by Nabeel Shaath (working closely with if not for the Americans) who is always at Arafat's side, the Arafat regime is more of a disaster than most Palestinians ever imagined..

And by the way, for those who may have forgotten, the widespread demands for Shaath's removal and indictment which came even from the Palestinian Legislative Assembly have been totally pushed aside -- the "Arafat regime" is now more clearly than ever in the service of the Israelis, the Americans, and the other regional "client regimes" that also owe their origins and survival to their foreign patrons, certainly not to their own people.

Each agreement signed by Arafat since Oslo has been worse than the previous.  Each agreement has further squandered basic Palestinian rights recognized in innumerable U.N. resolutions while further reducing the freedoms of the now doubly captive Palestinian population -- except of course for the small number of "VIPs" whom the Israelis have annointed with special privileges, transit passes, and bank accounts.

The very man who represented Palestinian aspirations as head of the Palestinian delegation at Madrid and Washington, Haider Abdul Shafi, has resigned in disgust and called what has taken place a disaster which requires the Palestinian people to disavow what has happened and start over.  This can only happen of course once Arafat, Shaath, and the "authority" they control are no more.

Those living under Arafat's control, under the regime of the "authority" and the "occupation", are all fearful.  Be they activists or fighters, students or intellectuals, the mechanisms of control and repression have been ever-tightening since the Israelis and Americans decided to twist Arafat to their purposes at their time of maximum power in the wake of the Gulf War.  Not only was this an unprecedented time of division and demoralization for what is left of the once proud "Arab world", the Clinton Administration in Washington is the most pro-Israeli American government of all-time, literally seeded with people from the Israeli/Jewish lobby which helped bring Clinton/Gore to power.

Today's entire "Peace Process" deception is built upon these larger realities in order for the U.S. and Israel to be able to pursue a "new world order" of continual domination in the Middle East and elsewhere.  The overall situation facing the Palestinians, and indeed all who cherish basic concepts of justice and true peace, is what can be done about the predicament the "Arafat regime" has placed them in.  The following commentary, which we publish anonymously, comes from inside the double occupation, from a thoughtful and courageous writer and analyst who must by necessity phrase things in relatively diplomatic language.  But read carefully, and read between the lines, for indeed the "most dangerous" moments still lie ahead...maybe immediately ahead.

                       NEW ISRAELI PULLBACK:

Military base by military base, Israel is "pulling back" from abit more of the West Bank which is to be "handed over" thereafter to PA forces. And with each spot cleared from the departing Israeli soldiers, Palestinian flags take over and waves of young and old Palestinians, joined by police, gather, dance the dabkah, wave a flag or two, and leave with the sweet taste of victory.

Unfortunately, however, what may appear to be another triumph cultivated through peace talks, contains an Israeli victory and symbolizes Palestinian negotiators inability to achieve what has already been determined in past agreements.

The Israeli negotiator is no super man; there are reasons for the weakness of the Palestinian team, and they are indeed many. The 5 January withdrawal was due 15 November. A disagreement, however, rose after Israel insisted, as always, on implementing its own interpretation of the agreement.

Palestinians, who asserted that the areas where Israelis proposed to clear were not of strategic value for movement in the West Bank, hoped for a compromise. Fifty days later, no compromise was made; Israel pulled out of the same areas it proposed; Palestinians cheered for the pull-out and
claimed a victory, and the U.S. commended both parties for their patience and wisdom.

The agreement which paved the way for the withdrawal, to please the Palestinian side momentarily, contained a promise in which Israelis would be open to Palestinian requests in sketching the map for the proposed 20 January Israeli redeployment of an additional 6.1% of the West Bank.

Throughout the years, Palestinians have learned not to believe in Israel's promises and the latter was convinced of the same. Yet, the Palestinian agreement based on an empty promise was in fact motivated by fear of Israel's ability to neglect them, focusing solely on the Syrian negotiation

Time and again, PA leaders have stressed their rejection of Israel's intentional delay in the negotiations with the Palestinians. While Israel is willing and able to afford delay (delay for Israel means draining Palestinians' patience, cultivating thereafter more and more concessions),
the PA simply cannot delay, as social dissatisfaction is on a steady rise and the economic situation is suffering terribly.

By 13 February, both sides pledged to formulate a framework for a final peace treaty. The chief Israeli negotiator, Oded Eran, who spoke with enthusiasm that the 13-20 February framework can be met, uttered that if an agreement was not reached by mid-February, then it would happen only a
few weeks later. The relaxed Israeli mentality has been a very successful tool in weakening the Palestinians' who are aware of the political and social consequences that further delays could lead to.

Aside from their fear of Israel's deliberate obstacles, Palestinians are also aware that their refusal to sign on Israel's interpretation of the agreement puts little pressure on the Israeli government.

Assuming that the deadlock in the talks lasts much more than 50 days, what harm would that do to Israel? Israel is indeed the excusable one in any case. After all, its security is the one recognized internationally as being under constant threat. And, after all, they are the ones enduring the hardship of negotiating with two parties at once. For Palestinians, without
a strong international resolution to oblige Israel, or the lack of a mechanism to implement any resolutions, and with the soft American perception of Israel and harsh treatment of Palestinians, waiting means nothing but wasting time. Thus, it comes as no surprise that 50 days later, Palestinians break under Israeli pressure.

Although the one-sided peace compromise has often been repeated, the latest Palestinian compromise is a dangerous one. Both sides are only one withdrawal away from formulating the final status peace treaty. The recent Palestinian concession has sent another reassuring message to Israel
that Palestinians are still vulnerable, fragile, defenseless and, as always, ready to crack. Yet bargaining for the 5% or the 6.1% withdrawal will not be as consequential as compromising with the future of Jerusalem, refugees' right of return, water, settlements and borders. The failure of the PA to obtain a meaningful agreement means the creation of the same similar unjust circumstances that led to popular Palestinian revolts in the past.

Saying "no" to an unjust agreement is not enough for Palestinians to convince Israel to grant them their wishes. However, the fact that Palestinians possess little more than their rejection of Israel's unfair negotiations makes "no" the only option available. And in the midst of a difficult reality that surrounds Palestinians, whether it be Arab fragmentation or Israel's political influences, patience and endurance backed by national unity just might compose a long-term winning

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