Friday, May 10, 2002

I find it interesting that everyone is advocating the replacement of Arafat as leader of the Palestinians. What exactly did he do to deserve all this disdain? He doesn't appear to have changed over the years, but suddenly he is unacceptable. After Oslo, he effectively became the policeman for the Israelis. As the Palestinians were in a terrible negotiating position due to their stupid support for Saddam Hussein, the Israelis were able to negotiate a deal where they were allowed to continue to expand the settlements in the Occupied Territories (the Palestinians may not agree that that was the deal, but effectively they gave the Israelis a free hand in doing what the Israelis wanted). In return for this, the Israelis allowed the Palestinians a fake form of autonomy and a fake form of government in the Palestinian Authority. For agreeing to go along with the Israelis, Arafat was allowed to take the power and prestige that goes along with being able to hand out patronage (i. e., corruption). The main role of the Palestinian Authority from the Israeli/American point of view was to act as a collaborating police force to suppress the angry response that was expected to occur when the Palestinians began to see the effects of the long-term Israeli plan of squeezing out the Palestinians through gradually taking over all the usable land in the Occupied Territories. The brilliant Israeli plan of slow-motion ethnic cleansing would eventually 'voluntarily' drive all the Palestinians out of the West Bank, without the need for any messy wars or obvious human rights violations. The 'problem' of Arafat only occurred when he stopped collaborating by failing to completely suppress the suicide bombing. It appears that his failure is partly due to the fact that he really lacks full control of the Occupied Territories (his own police force partly sympathizes with the goals of the bombers), but it is in his interests to leave vague the extent of his actual control so that he does not give away his weakness. Of course, it is also likely that he sees that the Palestinians will be completely destroyed by the agreements that he himself made, and so is not completely against the bombings, seeing them as providing him with a strategic negotiating position out of the mess he has gotten himself and the Palestinians into. It appears that what the Israelis are looking for in a replacement for Arafat is someone who will return to the simple role of collaborating suppressor of Palestinian unrest until the ethnic cleansing is completed. While it is difficult to feel much sympathy for Arafat, especially as he is the author of both his misfortune and the misfortune of the Palestinians, it shows how silly the situation in the Middle East is when apparently the Israelis think they have the right to choose the person they negotiate with because they find their erstwhile cat's-paw insufficiently accomodating.