When the history of the Middle East is written, there will be plenty of blame to go around for the failure of Arabs and Israelis to reach peace and coexistence. The choice of Yasser Arafat as leader of the Palestinian people has been a disaster for both Israelis and Palestinians. While Israeli leadership changed from the late Yitzhak Rabin to Shimon Peres, to Benjamin Netanyahu, to Ehud Barak, to Ariel Sharon, each and every Prime Minister has been unable to reach a compromise with the unbendable will of terrorist Yasser Arafat. And the problem with Arafat is simple. He is still a revolutionary and a student of history.
He knows that the ultimate winner in the struggle will be the people who believe that they have the superior claim to this area. Arafat made certain that from day one of the first intifada, his organization would have control over the education of Arab children. He has now enjoyed seventeen years (a full generation of students) to teach that Arab Palestine is the only legitimate owner over the whole land. His administration over the Temple Mount has worked to remove every vestige of the Jewish Temples that stood at this holy site. His people have destroyed the historic Tomb of Joseph and no one seems to care that he defies his signed agreement to preserve holy sites. He has successfully brainwashed a generation of young Arabs into believing that only they have historical roots in the area, and that the Jews are only imperialist colonizers, sent from Europe in the aftermath of the last World War.
His plan has been (and still is today) to replicate the history of the creation of the State of Israel with a matching history for Palestinians. Every incident from the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila to the fighting in Jenin has been part of his "Palestinian Holocaust". And his belief to this day is that he can continue to upgrade the terror directed against Israelis until Israel reacts with overwhelming force, killing thousands of Arabs, and causing the world to grant a Palestinian state to the survivors with no agreement or consent on the part of the State of Israel.
For Arafat, there is absolutely no way to end the violence short of the end of the State of Israel. His hope is that Israelis will continue to loose hope for the future and will begin evacuating the entire country for homes in Europe, America or other places that will accept them. The remaining Israelis would become part of a single Palestinian state on all the land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. One state for Jews and Arabs, with an Arab majority and Arab rule. That is the goal.
Arafat is also said to be among the richest world leaders. His personal fortune is estimated to be around $500 million. This suggests a number of conclusions including (1) the European Union (EU) might be considered poor investors, since they have fed the Palestinian Authority with billions of Euros since its inception, (2) any suggestion that the Palestinian Authority lacks corruption, bribery and inefficiencies is counter-manned by the wealth of Arafat and his partners, (3) the Palestinian Arabs who, out of fear, ignorance or propaganda have affirmed and reaffirmed Chairman Arafat as the leader of the Palestinian people, have been poorly served by the PA leadership.
In the Western world Arafat is seen as the one leader unable and / or unwilling to make the strategic choices and compromises necessary to establish minimal peace essential for the creation of a Palestinian state. In the Arab world, Prime Minister Sharon stands for the Arab-hating general, who thrives on the killing of Arab soldiers.
Behind the myth that Arabs and Jews cannot make peace lays the truth that, Arafat and Sharon cannot make peace. And yet, a great irony pervades the situation. Arafat, the grandfather to all terror groups – the killer of school children in Maalot, of Olympic athletes in Munich – deserves the ultimate punishment. Most probably Sharon would desire to carry out the verdict.
At the same time, Sharon and many Israelis now believe that a Palestinian State is a threat to the survival of the State of Israel. Such a State would arm and prepare itself to finally drive the Jews into the sea.
As long as Chairman Arafat is alive, the Palestinian Authority will continue to fund and support terror groups, thereby preventing the conditions necessary for the creation of a Palestinian State. Arafat's death would allow new leadership to emerge, which possibly would disarm enough of the various terror groups in order to allow the formation of a Palestinian State.
Conclusion: Arafat and Sharon are bedfellows in the prevention of Palestinian statehood and while citizens on both sides continue to die and sustain injuries in the thousands, any solution awaits regime change in one or both political camps.
Michael J. Stern, 15/April/2004