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PA Legislature Revolts Against Arafat

12 September 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat suffered defeat at the hands of his own parliament yesterday when 51 out of its 88 members demanded of vote of confidence be taken to ratify his new cabinet arrangements (adding 5 new members).  Arafat is supposed to be implementing reforms in the corruption ridden PA but so far has only been involved in declarations to that effect and a bit of cosmetics. 

Israel is fed up with him for close to two years and certainly since Ariel Sharon became prime minister, the Americans and President Bush broke all relations with him in June and even the Europeans who still communicate with him on occasion have thrown in the towel.  Arafat’s relationship with the ‘moderates’ such as Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s Mubarak are poor while most of the radical Arab leadership demand he step up his terrorism against Israel and applaud him when he does so while condemning him when he makes ‘peaceful’ noises.

No doubt he is the symbol of the Palestinian people, yet he is also a corrupt and vicious terrorist.  As of last December PM Sharon declared him “irrelevant” only to be lectured by most that he is “the legitimately elected leader of the Palestinian people” and therefore Israel has no choice but to negotiate with him.

There are still some in certain extreme left circles in Israel who consider him “relevant”.  But after almost two years of a failed ‘popular uprising’ or intifada Palestinian parliament representatives have also had enough and they forced the resignation of his governing council instead of accepting a cosmetic face-lift, claiming they are demanding real change.  Many are calling it a great victory for democracy, but that is yet to be seen.  Elections (after 7 years) are scheduled for January 2003.

Arafat the symbol remains.  Arafat the man has been rejected and in practical terms is on his way to ‘irrelevancy’.  Much of the revolt is a palace coup as his own Fatah turned on him.  They at least have some sense of the suffering of the Palestinian people, even if it took a long time to surface.  They cannot say so publicly, but they are aware Arafat is the cause.  Privately many say he should have taken what was offered at Camp David 2000 and Taba 2001.

Originally Sharon was opposed to allowing the convening of the Palestinian Parliament but the security services convinced him it was in Israel’s interests to let the ‘show go on’ and they were correct.  It is not clear whether reforms are truly on the way or if Arafat will appoint a prime minister who will be the real power broker.

Arafat is weakened and now the political, diplomatic game may begin in earnest by those Palestinians who honestly seek a solution to the conflict.  Nonetheless, Israel’s battle against terrorism will continue in parallel with the battle for peace. 

As long as Arafat was ‘relevant’ the ‘battle for peace’ was not.