Ahead of the Curve: Arafat's Poisoned Legacy

February 20, 2007 Topic: Society Tags: Diplomacy

Ahead of the Curve: Arafat's Poisoned Legacy

Mini Teaser: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert failed to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It should be unsurprising.

by Author(s): Barry Rubin

In the Spring 2005 edition of the The National Interest, Barry Rubin explained:

The United States cannot deliver the kind of solution the Palestinian leadership demands. Indeed, the greatest outbreak of anti-American ideas and deeds in the Arab and Muslim world came after the United States raised billions of dollars in aid and provided massive political assistance to the Palestinians, endorsed a state for them, and tried to implement this outcome. As long as the current Palestinian leadership and ideology prevails, America cannot impose a peace, no matter how hard it tries.

For the Palestinian movement itself, weakness and failure are guaranteed by internal divisions and the inability to make vital decisions, on the one hand, and the lack of moderate goals or a viable strategy, on the other. As strange as it may seem to observers, it is nonetheless true that most Palestinian leaders want the occupation to continue more than Israelis do. For it is this that justifies their continued struggle to win everything, gains them international support, and lets them avoid making the kind of tough decisions that could split the movement or even result in their own demise.

These are the Herculean tasks that Abu Mazen must now confront, and his is also a job for which he has no proven skills and little support within the movement. He either cannot mobilize the masses against the radicals or does not know where to begin. He dares not use force against extremists, even to stop them from sabotaging any ceasefire he negotiates. Abu Mazen may want a peaceful solution, but he knows that compromise is political suicide. Yet without compromise, progress is impossible. . . .

It is important to remember that to this day, most ordinary Palestinians have no idea what was offered at Camp David or that, in the December 2000 Clinton Plan, the United States and Israel proposed a comprehensive negotiated solution including an independent Palestinian state in all of Gaza, the equivalent of all of the West Bank, most of East Jerusalem, and sovereignty over the Al-Aqsa mosque. Misinformed that Israel poisoned Arafat and told that it is a state with no right to exist and that it is offering them no solution except endless occupation, Palestinians will understandably see continued armed struggle as their only alternative. Told repeatedly both that total victory is just and that the whole world supports them, they are unlikely to opt for a comprehensive moderate rethinking of their worldview.

Taken from "Arafat's Poisoned Legacy", available to National Interest subscribers here. To subscribe to The National Interest for access to the complete archives, click here.

Essay Types: Essay