February 16, 2001
The Arafat Regime is collapsing. Here are some of the details, twisted
somewhat of course because the reports are from Israel's best newspaper, Ha'aretz,
in view of the fact that Palestinian and Arab news sources are unable and unwilling
to provide such insights.
Arafat brought much false hope with him, coupled with a great deal of real
corruption and incompetence along with much repression and misery. It was
"Break Their Bones" Yitzhak Rabin who decided to bring Arafat and cronies to
Gaza. This was right after the Gulf War with the Arab world at its weakest;
divided, co-opted and occupied as never before. And since then everything
for the Palestinian people has gotten even worse -- more restrictions, more
dispossession, more repression, more corruption -- which was precisely the
intent of Rabin, et. al. Since then it's been a kind of "double occupation"
with the Israelis using the Arafat "Authority" to extinguish the original Intifada
and then to control the Palestinian people under conditions that have continually
If the Arafat Regime does is in fact collapsing the short-term impact on
the Palestinian people at this point may be very negative, precisely because
of all the mistakes of the past. But nevertheless it is not something true
friends of the Palestinians and people seeking a true and lasting peace should
mourn. On the other hand, the Israelis are trying to foment a period of Palestinian
anarchy and even Palestinian civil war under cover of which they will pursue
their long-time goal of vanquishing and devastating the Palestinian people
-- and this is the major reality that needs to be appreciated by all.
We have been pointing out the realities of the Arafat regime for some time
now, through periods of false and illusory hope as well as at times of heightened
tragedy. Arafat brought no dignity, no Statehood to the Palestinian people
as he had promised for so long -- in fact in the end he was coerced not to
dare "declare" Palestinian Statehood.
Instead Arafat and friends -- paid and rewarded very well for their efforts
-- were used to help hoodwink public opinion around the world as well as to
legitimize the overall Israeli design to trap the Palestinian people in a neo-Apartheid
situation; more divided, more mislead, more repressed, more demoralized than
ever. And that is the state of affairs with which it is quite possible now
Arafat and crowd may be finally on the way to departing the scene, with quite
literally billions of dollars in secret foreign bank accounts awaiting many
GOING FOR BROKE
The breakdown of the economy and
of law and order in the Palestinian
territories, along with a growing
alienation between the leadership
and the masses, means that Arafat's
regime is close to total collapse.
By Danny Rubinstein
[Ha'aretz - 16 February:
The rule of the Palestinian Authority is crumbling. This determination is
based not only on data that indicates a significant decline in the functioning
of all of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's administrative mechanisms, but also by
the fact that in the long run, the Palestinian regime and the Intifada cannot
exist side by side. Rule means the imposition of law and order, development
and welfare schemes for the public, the provision of services and protection
to the population. The Intifada means the exact opposite: disturbances and
violent incidents, the total disruption of services and normal daily life,
end of development and a life of siege and poverty.The more time passes, the
clearer it becomes that either there is someone in charge, or there is the
Intifada. In other words, if the Intifada continues, there will be no more
Palestinian government. Israelis and Palestinians alike share this evaluation
as they look on with a fair amount of anxiety at the events of the Intifada,
which are undermining the basis of the governing institutions of the PA. No
longer is there talk of stopping the violent incidents in the West Bank and
Gaza and a return to diplomatic talks.
"The Intifada is a necessity, whereas the negotiations are only a
possibility," read a headline in the Palestinian Authority organ Al Hayat al
Jedida last week. In this state of affairs, many believe that the total
collapse of the Palestinian regime is now only a matter of time, and it is
difficult to imagine what will happen then in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The breakdown of the Palestinian administration is evident in every area; the
judicial and law enforcement systems hardly function at all in the
territories. Even in the past, they were neither orderly nor strong; now they
barely exist. In the Palestinian cities, groups of armed young men operate.
Some, the Tanzim, have connections to Fatah or to opposition organizations,
and there are also gangs of marginal individuals who pretend to represent
valid nationalist positions. These groups are carrying out most of the actions
of the Intifada against the Israel Defense Forces and the Jewish settlers
beyond the 1967 borders, as well as against suspected collaborators.
Active in many of these groups are people from the Palestinian security
services. Arafat's rule relies on these services, and they have been
considerably weakened in recent months. The PA's coffers are empty and its
treasury has cut back the budgets of the security services. The strongest
among them - the Preventive Security commanded by Jibril Rajoub in the West
Bank and Mohammed Dahlan in Gaza - got significant additional income from
providing security services to various institutions. In the West Bank, for
example, Preventive Security provided all the guard and security services for
the casino in Jericho, and took in considerable sums. In Gaza, the Preventive
Security people arranged for the transit of goods in and out of the Strip,
charged handsomely for this.
These were official arrangements. But when there is no casino and no transit
of goods, there is also no money for the security services. Members of these
services who have not received their salaries have left. Some have moved on
the Tanzim, and others have joined the Intifada activists or various gangs
that wield authority. The crime rate in the territories has skyrocketed, and
there are many attempts to extort money from wealthy people in the guise of
nationalism. Theft from Israeli areas has increased greatly. Stolen cars go
for a song now in the territories, about NIS 1,000. The price has plummeted
because there is a good supply.
Alienation between the administration and the masses has increased
considerably of late. Many older people are afraid to go out in the street.
They have been frightened by the murder in Gaza of the director general of
Palestinian TV, Hisham Meki, who was accused of corruption and was shot to
death on the Gaza beach.
"The muzzles of our guns that are aimed at the hearts of the Jews will also
not miss the hearts of the traitors, the collaborators and the corrupt," read
a broadside against Mohammed Dahlan, distributed in Gaza, that caused a stir
in the territories last week. It was signed by the "Iz a Din al Kassam
Battalions," of Hamas. Hamas spokesmen denied any knowledge of it, but it is
doubtful that this gave any comfort to the VIPs, who fear that the broadside
was directed at them.
The decline of the economy of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has been rapid.
With the outbreak of the Intifada, less than five months ago, the Palestinian
economy came to a sudden halt. Infrastructure work ceased. The huge national
project of building the Gaza port is paralyzed, as are such projects as the
sewage system in Nablus or refurbishing the electricity network in the Jenin
and Tubas areas. About half of Palestinian industry has come to a standstill.
Many of the textile, stone and food plants have been closed, either because
a shortage of raw materials or because of a cutoff in links to the markets.
The trade areas with the Israelis, that is the large popular markets of
Qalqilyah and Tul Karm, the trans-Samaria highway, Jenin and Bethlehem, which
thousands of Israelis used to visit - stand empty. Sales in these markets were
once estimated to have reached $500 million a year. Now they are zero.
The banks in the territories have stopped extending credit. The municipalities
are unable to collect taxes and have cut back most of their services. The
health, education and welfare systems have been severely damaged. The
restrictions on movement, the closure and the encirclement imposed by the IDF
make it difficult for doctors and nurses to get to the hospitals and clinics,
and of course many patients do not manage to come for treatment. Many students
and teachers are stopped on their way to the educational institutions, where
studies have been entirely disrupted.
Major General Yaakov "Mendi" Or, the Coordinator of Government Activities in
the West Bank and Gaza, says that as far back as a year ago or more, there
were indications in the territories of dangerous processes of alienation
between the regime and the general public. People from his bureau relate that
last year, the number of internal incidents in the territories increased:
stone-throwing at French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin during his visit to Bir
Zeit University; the violent clash between the Palestinian police and
demonstrators at the Deheisheh refugee camp during the Pope's visit; dozens
shooting incidents involving members of rival security forces; quarrels and
eruptions of mob violence because of court rulings, disputes over jobs and
power positions or matters of honor and women. All of these, says Or,
indicated problems with the Palestinian regime's ability to maintain law and
What is happening now is that things have become considerably accelerated:
general public is paying the very heavy price of the Intifada, says Or. This
includes massive financial losses, poverty and want, severe unemployment,
daily suffering from services that are collapsing, dead and wounded.
And what are they getting in return? How long will this continue? Most of the
anger is directed at the State of Israel. But the Palestinian administration
is not coming out of this clean. Israel is the enemy - but where is the
Palestinian national government, whose job it is to protect the people from
the enemy, whose job it is to provide services? In a situation like this,
there are always accusing fingers pointed at the local people in authority,
the government and the Palestinian establishment - who have enough to continue
Arafat and his people know this. Last month they decided to allot the sum of
NIS 600 to everyone who had had work in Israel and was now sitting at home
the fifth month in a row. The distribution of this money was conducted
carelessly and aroused many complaints. Many people clustered at the points
where the money was doled out and demonstrated bitterly. They said, they're
making fools of us, NIS 600 is a joke, look how the cabinet members are
living, the directors-generals and the generals.
All this is leading in the direction of an escalation in the incidents and
breakdown of the regime. Some of the Palestinian cities and areas are cut off
from one another. In some of them, the situation is approaching anarchy. In
Bethlehem, for example, the local economy, which was based on tourism, has
collapsed completely. Many people who had invested heavily in tourism
installations have incurred huge losses. Residents are saying that an
atmosphere of lawlessness prevails there. A similar fate may be expected in
all the territories - and what will come in place of the crumbling Palestinian
"PROCESS OF COLLAPSE" UNDERWAY IN PA
REPORT SECURITY CHIEFS
By Amos Harel
Ha'aretz Military Correspondent
"In Palestinian cities groups of armed
young men operate. An Islamic Jihad
poster shows a fighter blowing up an
Israeli bus, while children wave a Jihad
flag in Gaza City this week."
[Ha'aretz - 16 February]:
Israeli security officials believe that the recent spiral of violence in the
territories reflects Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's inability
to control events there. Wednesday's lethal bus terror attack, which claimed
eight Israeli lives, along with the current wave of violence in the
territories, bear witness to a "process of collapse within the Palestinian
Authority," these officials claim.
Though the attacks are not orchestrated by Arafat directly, the PA Chairman
doing little to prevent them, and inflammatory comments made by Arafat and
other top PA officials encourage renewed violence, the Israeli officials
Officers of the Israel Defense Forces identify a kind of competition between
two PA strongmen on the West Bank: Fatah leader Marwan Barguthi and
intelligence services head Tawfiq Tirawi have been vying with one another in
an effort to spearhead violent strikes against IDF soldiers and settlers.
Meantime, Palestinian security forces are doing nothing to thwart terror
strikes against Israeli targets, and several top PA security officials have
been personally involved in planning such strikes.
High-ranking IDF officers who are currently deployed in the territories
believe that the political leadership must toughen the retaliatory measures
uses against the PA. They contend that the IDF will be able to flex more
muscle in the territories once PA security men are classified as enemies,
since such a redefinition would enable Israeli security forces to strike
against these Palestinians at any time - and not only in retaliation for shots
fired at IDF soldiers or settlers. These IDF officers also want to receive
clearance for entry into certain parts of area "A," under full PA control.
IF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY COLLAPSES
If Palestinian attacks continue, the
future government of Prime Minister-elect
Ariel Sharon will be faced with a dilemma:
Would it or would it not be wise to
speed up the process of the Palestinian
By Ze'ev Schiff
[Ha'aretz - 16 February]:
If Palestinian attacks continue, the future government of Prime Minister-elect
Ariel Sharon will be faced with a dilemma: Would it or would it not be wise
speed up the process of the Palestinian Authority's collapse?.A little while
ago, people in Israel began asking whether the PA's collapse would be of any
benefit to Israel or whether it would, in fact, just provide another set of
headaches. Now, the question being asked in this country is whether the PA's
existence in its present form is an asset to Israel or the source of the
The collapse of the PA could take various forms and should not necessarily
seen solely in terms of its loss of control over its security services. The
Palestinian leadership will continue to be in control of security, but its
governmental activity in all other fields could wind up vanishing into thin
air. The leadership could, for example, halt such activities as the payment
salaries to public sector workers or the collection of taxes from residents.
At the same time, if the clout of gangs increases and the crime rate rises,
the system of law and order in the PA could be seriously undermined. The worst
scenario, however, would be the collapse of food supply systems in the PA.
The PA's demise would likely be gradual, with the pace of deterioration
varying from one region to the next. There are signs that such a process has
already begun. There are, in effect, two Palestinian Authorities today. One
them exists in the Gaza Strip, where the main mechanisms of power are to be
found. The second, which is isolated from the first, operates in the West
Bank. PA Chairman Yasser Arafat has not set foot in Ramallah since the start
of the Al Aqsa Intifada. While it is much easier for Arafat to enter and leave
the Gaza Strip, perhaps the true reason for this is that he's afraid Israel
would prevent him from leaving the West Bank.
So far, no in-depth debate has been conducted on whether the PA's collapse
would be in Israel's best interests. The issue has been raised in a sporadic
fashion and outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Barak has himself admitted that the
issue has not been sufficiently clarified. Nonetheless, the comments of senior
Israeli leaders indicate unambiguously that the prevailing opinion today is
that Israel should not do anything that risks speeding up the PA's collapse.
This is the predominant position within military intelligence, the Shin Bet
internal security service and is, of course, supported by Major General Yaakov
Or, Coordinator of Government Activities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
This is also the prevailing view in the National Security Council, headed by
Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan.
Each defense expert has a different reason for taking this position. There
those who explain that, if Israelis are expecting another leader to succeed
Arafat in the event of the PA's collapse, there is no guarantee that the new
leader would be any better for the peace process. Others explain that the
collapse of the PA would produce anarchy in the territories - a situation that
would not be in Israel's best interests. Still another explanation is that,
the PA collapses, Israel would not be able to conduct any form of dialogue
with the Palestinians on political or security issues - or, for that matter,
even on basic, humanitarian questions. Israel would then be forced to maintain
sporadic contacts with this or that senior Palestinian officer or leader on
local issues. Under such circumstances, no one could promise that any
agreement worked out with a local military or civilian leader would be worth
very much. That would be an extremely undesirable situation for Israel, and
catastrophic one for its Palestinian neighbors, many of whom dread the
negative ramifications of the PA's collapse, despite their harsh criticism
The situation facing Israel today - and the word "today" should be emphasized
- requires the continued existence of the PA as an entity to which various
demands can be made. If Israel decides to undertake actions aimed at speeding
up the PA's collapse, it will be held responsible for the unwelcome state of
affairs that is likely to follow. On the other hand, Israel has reached a
point where it needs to avoid any measures aimed at bolstering the PA's
position. Israel should halt any activities that could reinforce the PA's
position economically and - certainly - politically. A willingness to help
strengthen the PA's position was official Israeli policy until very recently.
In line with that policy, Barak even instructed the top brass in the Israel
Defense Forces to avoid uttering anything that could lead to Arafat's
If the writing is on the wall for the PA, then it would be better that the
fall apart without any external assistance. In any event, it is quite possible
that the PA's collapse is inevitable, given the Palestinians' well-known
tendency towards self-destruction.