For three years, Israelis tried everything short of facing the Arafat question head on. Nothing worked. The Mitchell Plan, the Tenet Plan, the Seven Quiet Days, the Zinni Missions, Bethlehem First, the Wolf's Lair, and finally the road map: all failures. Now, 800 dead Israelis later--15 last week alone--Israelis have concluded that it is more dangerous to host Arafat than to eliminate him.After a while, one has to assume that Arafat is not a proper negotiating partner. For one thing, he has too much invested in his movement to settle for anything as mundane as the administration of a state. Nothing would be worse than a blandly functioning state, making some GDP gains and improving the quality of life for many Palestinians, living like refugees, who have gained nothing from the leadership of Arafat.
Second, the independent Palestinian Authority:
By wedding themselves to Arafat, his international allies allowed the Palestinian dictator to loot and plunder his people. Since Israel brought Arafat back to the West Bank in 1994 as part of the Oslo Accords, Palestinian GDP has declined 70 percent. Think of it: two-thirds of the collective national Palestinian wealth destroyed. During that same period, despite the high-tech bust and the terror war waged against it, Israel's GDP doubled.Ever wonder what Arafat is worth, personally? Anywhere from $300 million to 1.3 billion, depending on who you ask. Meanwhile his "people" live in grinding poverty, much of which is imposed by the corruption of the PA and the harsh restrictions that Israel has put in place during the intifada. As I asked about Osama last week, do you suppose Arafat is a true believer? He seems more like a Tammany Hall politician with international fund-raising power.
Finally, the progress made by going over Arafat's head:
Neither the road map's collapse nor Israel's looming "removal" of Arafat prompted Morocco or Jordan to alter or condition its decision to reestablish relations with Israel, broken off at the start of Arafat's terror war. Nor did it prevent Prime Minister Sharon from celebrating the tenth anniversary of an extraordinarily significant relationship that Bombay and Jerusalem were calling the "Indo-Israeli Alliance" during his high-profile state visit to India. The growth increment alone in this year's trade between Israel and India will be greater than the entire GDP of the Palestinian Authority.Is it possible that one of the clearest aftershocks of September 11 might be for Arafat to lose some stature? (That outcome seems more likely than the American public being able to keep its spine in place regarding Iraq.) If so, that is the best news for Israel since Begin and Sadat shook hands. Israel's best bet for the future is to make a seperate peace with Arafat's Arab friends. Remember how big a coup it was to make peace with Egypt, how much it took off the table, strategically and militarily, to have Israel's biggest and strongest hostile neighbor sign on for non-aggression. Jordan and Morocco next. Syria may begin to feel the chill of isolation -- not something a slowly reforming Bashar Assad wants -- though Syria is in so deep with terrorism, a sharp break would cost Assad his head, as Egypt's turn cost Sadat his. But these things move slowly; as Rose notes, much of the progress was made in Arafat's absence, and he came back in '93 supposedly ready to deal.
I don't consider myself blindly pro-Israel, and I have a great deal of sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians. But I don't see how Israel can pass this up. Bibi Netanyahu once pledged that, as Prime Minister, he would kill Arafat upon the first suicide bombing. The result spoke for itself, though it won no friends in the Clinton administration. It might be the perfect time for Israel to get serious.
Meanwhile, USA Today has a front-pager that, while grim, notes that more Palestinian citizens and politicians think the intifada robs legitimacy from their cause.