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The Return of Arafat (and Another Round of Terrorism)

28 August 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

 

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat is making his comeback in a most interesting way.  He is trying to project an image more moderate that than his PM Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Internal Security Minister Mohammed Dahlan.  The US, Israel, moderate Palestinians, Egypt, Jordan and even the European Union were hoping to circumvent Arafat by leaving him in the symbolic position of “Palestinian president” while the real power was in the hands of Abbas and Dahlan.

Arafat schemes for the continuation of his terrorist policies but cannot say so out loud so he must play the hudna (Islamic cease-fire) game.  Due to last week’s bus bombing and continued Palestinian violence he can prove the failure of Abbas and Dahlan.  Israel eased up travel restrictions in the West Bank and especially Gaza (all road blocks on the north-south main axis were and are still removed) and was on the verge of handing over four more Palestinian cities when the hudna ended suddenly with the bus blast.  Neither Abbas nor Dahlan took serious action against the terrorist infrastructure, nor does it appear they intend to.

Egyptian special envoy and security chief Omar Suleiman has threatened Arafat with dire consequences should he continue to be an obstacle to the Bush Road Map, but until now he has turned a deaf ear.  Paradoxically Arafat is threatening Abbas and Dahlan with removal not only because of his personal rivalry with them but because of their impotence in halting terrorism.  This week Arafat brought back Jabril Rajoub, his former West Bank Preventive Security chief who the chairman dismissed in disgrace last year when he refused to allow his men to take part in attacks on Israelis whether they be soldiers, or civilians (living in Israel proper or the West Bank).  Rajoub was looked upon as a very threatening, well - armed moderate who could possibly challenge Arafat.

There is a double catch.  Rajoub and Dahlan (who was Gaza Preventive Security chief) detest each other even if both can be seen as moderates.  Dahlan was even involved in terror attacks (remember the Gush Katif school bus) yet today because of his alliance with Abbas he is seen as more moderate than the forgotten Rajoub who is now realigned with master terrorist Arafat.  Secondly Arafat is speaking of a second hudna which Rajoub will enforce.  An Arafat hudna is supposed to stick, not like an Abbas hudna.

With Arafat challenging an Abbas hudna and Dahlan refusing to take on the terror organizations no sort of cease-fire stood any chance.  Arafat realized the hudna failed not because of the Jerusalem bus bombing but because of its timing.  None of the terror organizations had time to recuperate and rearm nor increase the Kassam rocket range as had been the hope.  Israel is back to targeted removals (not only of ticking bombs) and full disruption of terror activities.

So what’s Arafat’s game plan?  First he will force out Abbas and Dahlan and then attempt a hudna to regain strength in the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and his own Fatah (El Aksa Brigades / Tanzim) and shore up his own international credibility as a supposed freedom fighter and man of peace.  He will then make impossible demands on Israel such as the right of full Palestinian refugee return, a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders and admittance of a full responsibility by Israel for the entire Middle East conflict (like he did when negotiating with Ehud Barak at Camp David 2000).

When Israel rightfully rejects these demands he will declare himself justified in returning to the “armed struggle”, his euphemism for a renewed terror offensive.  By then he hopes to have attained another round of legitimacy since he will claim to be returning to the bargaining table at the “point where negotiations left off”.  Conveniently he will forget the almost concluded negotiations at Taba (January 2001) where these three demands were not accepted.  But then he was not personally present and can claim he was never in agreement.

Unfortunately Arafat is still relevant where terrorism is concerned and he will certainly guarantee another round of violence after he eliminates the short-lived self-emasculated Abbas-Dahlan duet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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