Dominoes Beginning to Tumble. . .
Vol: 37 Issue: 29 Friday, October 29, 2004
Dominoes Beginning to Tumble. . .
After seeing the video of Yasser Arafat being propped up on both sides by supporters while dressed in sweats and a knit cap, the scene was so surreal I intended to title today’s OL ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’.
(If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll get the pun. If not, it would take too long to explain it.)
In any case, Britt Hume made the joke first, and then the New York Post followed up with photos of Yasser and a clip from the movie, and headed their column, “Weekend at Yasser s” — funnier than my idea, and more accurate.
It doesn’t look like the old Master Terrorist is long for this world — but that isn’t the first time I’ve said THAT, either. Arafat has an almost demonic capacity for survival — anytime Death approaches him, Arafat keeps him busy elsewhere — but this time, Arafat might actually be about to go to his reward.
The death of Yasser Arafat will create a welcome, albeit dangerous, void in the Palestinian political establishment.
Welcome, because both sides know there is no hope for peace as long as Arafat is alive. Dangerous, because his death will trigger a power struggle that could result in all-out civil war.
There is no established line of succession within the Palestinian Authority or the PLO. Arafat has ruled in the manner of ancient Middle Eastern kings — he keeps the second tier of command at each other throats in a constant power struggle which then fractures any unified effort to challenge his power.
It works. The Palestinian Authority is widely recognized by the Palestinian people as corrupt and incompetent. The Palestinians know that while they barely have enough to eat, they are paying for Sufi Arafat’s $100,000 per month apartment in Paris. And that Yasser Arafat has somehow become one of the richest men in the world.
Despite all that, he is still the figurehead of the Palestinian national struggle, and as such, his power and popularity are tarnished, but undiminished.
Under the Palestinian Authority’s Basic Law, if Arafat dies, he will be replaced by the speaker of the parliament for sixty days while new elections are organized.
The Palestinians, under Yasser Arafat, have not been able to organize an election in nearly a decade. The last Palestinian election was when Yasser Arafat was given a two-year term in 1996)
The presidency of the Palestinian Authority is not Arafat’s only grip on power. He is also chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and head of the Fatah faction, which dominates the PLO.
Each group has its own rules for succession, and there is likely to be ‘competition’ among several Arafat deputies for leadership. (Think of the Kerry campaign — only with guns and bombs, instead of distortions and personal attacks).
Palestinian civil war, although probable, is not the only option. There is a surprising amount of ambivalence in the Palestinian ‘street’ over Arafat’s impending death.
An editorial in Jordan’s Al-Rai newspaper commented; “It is not in our culture to wish someone’s death. But politically speaking, the death [of Yasser Arafat] is not a big loss for the Palestinian people.”
Many Palestinians are relieved at the prospect of Arafat’s death, as long is it didn’t come at Israeli hands. Former Arafat cabinet member Abdel Jawad Saleh said, “He is and was sick,” Saleh said. “There is no possibility of blaming the Israelis for his death. . . There is a great possibility of smooth succession if everyone abides by the law.”
Even Hamas and Islamic Jihad have pledged in statements not to take advantage of the power vacuum stemming from Arafat’s illness, taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude for the short-term.
By and large, reports the Jerusalem Post, “The bottom line, reiterated politicians, opposition members, Fatah members, and bystanders in Ramallah, is that their future could scarcely be worse than their past.”
The death of Yasser Arafat changes the entire complexion of the Middle East ‘peace process’ and sets the stage for a new dynamic for the region. The European Union has been trying to insinuate itself into the process, hoping to replace the United States as the principle broker for regional peace.
Following a meeting with PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha’ath in Brussels last Friday, the E.U.’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said “important events are going to take place in the coming weeks.”
In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel the next day, Solana also alluded to increased E.U. involvement in the peace process, adding that Ariel Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan would not be sufficient to bring peace.
“If Sharon believes that with a pullout from Gaza everything is already done and that peace would come automatically, we won’t support that,” he said. “That wouldn’t be a dream, but a nightmare.”
The EU is planning its own version of the ‘road map’ to peace — one that Israeli foreign ministry officials have already nicknamed the ‘street map’.
The EU’s foreign ministers, increasingly frustrated with the situation in the region and their lack of impact on events, gave EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana a mandate earlier in the month to draw up a recommended plan of action in the Middle East. He is slated to present it to EU leaders on November 5.
The decision to initiate a “street map” came at a meeting of EU foreign ministers two weeks ago in Luxembourg. At the end of that meeting, a statement on the Mideast was issued that was deemed in Jerusalem as unusually harsh towards Israel, even by EU standards.
The harsh statement and the mandate given to Solana to come up with a plan, reflect deep European dissatisfaction with US leniency on the settlement issue. The Europeans are frustrated they have no real leverage to shape events, angry over Israel’s operation in Gaza, and furious at Sharon’s determination to go through with the disengagement plan without cooperating with the Palestinians.
Like the failed Oslo Accords, the original road map to peace idea came from Europe. It was proposed by Denmark while they held the six-month rotating EU presidency.
Oslo failed because of Yasser Arafat. The road map to peace hit a brick wall, thanks to Yasser Arafat. The EU’s new ‘street map’ to peace has Israeli officials snickering, but that is because Arafat isn’t dead yet.
The Israelis are desperate for peace, and any agreement, Oslo, the road map, or even a ‘street map’ that might lead there is worth considering.
Ironically, after Arafat, the second biggest stumbling-block to peace is the United States of America.
Neither Israel nor the US would negotiate with Arafat, but, until Arafat’s illness, the EU was planning a diplomatic blitz to end Arafat’s Ramallah isolation. The EU has credibility with the Palestinians. The US does not.
Let’s step back and look at the wider picture for a moment. This is one of those historical crossroads in-the-making.
Since the turn of the 21st century, US credibility has been steadily declining. At the same time, European power and influence has been expanding to fill the void. The UN is on the verge of implosion. The Europeans are actively lobbying to replace the US as the principle peace broker between Israel and her enemies.
It looks like Arafat may die and clear the way for a new, European-sponsored peace effort, built on the rubble of the failed seven-year Oslo Agreement.
While all this is going on in the Middle East, America is embroiled in its own cold civil war that has fractured the country and hamstrung the government.
The Russians, French, Germans and Chinese, together with the UN, took advantage of Washington’s political distractions to plunder Iraq’s Oil-for-Food account, creating a five-party alliance of thieves whose fondest dream would be to see somebody gun down the American sheriff that broke up their conspiracy.
Among the other plunderers of Iraq, according to the Duelfer report and documents released by the Iraqi government, was the Vatican. The current Pope, John Paul II, like Yasser Arafat, is at death’s door.
New reports say the Russians are continuing to develop their alliances with the Muslim Middle East, despite their own war against Islamic terrorists in Chechnya.
And through it all, the most important city in the world, the one that is the obsession of the EU, UN, Russians, French, the Islamic world and the United States, is, was, and now more than ever, is the tiny city of Jerusalem.
“And He spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”
“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till ALL be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:29-32)
Taking into consideration the wider picture, there is not that much left to do on this side of the Rapture.
“And when these things BEGIN TO COME TO PASS, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)