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Rajoub Offers a Cease-Fire

14 September 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

PA Chairman Yasir Arafat’s new Security Minister Jabril Rajoub announced his readiness for a full open ended cease-fire with Israel in order to arrive at a permanent status agreement.  He insists his boss Arafat stands behind the offer.

Last year Rajoub (who was West Bank preventive security chief) was fired by Arafat and abandoned in disgrace, today he has suddenly become one of the chairman’s closest confidents.  Seems strange but Arafat is known for playing his underlings off against one another.  Today former security minister Mohammed Dahlan is on the ropes.  But depending on circumstances, he too may be rehabilitated.

But does Arafat want a western style cease-fire aimed at achieving a two-state agreement between Israel and the Palestinians?  Why now?  And what will be the Hamas and Islamic Jihad stand?

Based on previous behavior Arafat is not at all interested in a two-state solution.  The PA initiated violence of Sept. 2000 was directed at scuttling that distinct possibility.  When Israel and the Palestinians came such a basic understanding in January 2001 in Taba, Arafat refused to sign.  Rajoub is known to be a moderate and believe in the two-state solution so he is being used so Arafat can gain a breather.

Despite world condemnation of Israel’s declaration of intent to exile Arafat (or worse) and demonstrations of mass support, apparently the chairman is under a fair amount of pressure resulting from Israel’s anti-terror campaign.  The sped up construction of Israel’s separation security fence, to shortly become a de facto boundary when all else fails, is likewise forcing him to play the peace game.  Arafat wants to negotiate and threaten terrorism (overtly or implied) at the same time he talks thereby gaining maximum leverage in any discussions.  The anti-terror offense and defensive barrier will place him in an untenable position a few months from now as the security threat to Israel can be expected to diminish.

The Islamic Jihad rejects any cease-fire (Islamic hudna interval included) and the Hamas has not made its position clear although they can be expected to follow suit.  The recent targeted assassinations (even if some failed) made the Hamas very popular but now Arafat is “on a roll” after the Israeli cabinet took a decision in principle to expel him. 

Arafat’s moderate shift is directed at his Islamic opposition and western opinion.  He wants no internal Palestinian opposition and must show to all that he is the only player in the game who has the right to decide on war or peace, thereby also making a sham Israeli PM Sharon’s declaration of his irrelevancy.  He wants to be seen by the West as relevant to peace even if this is not the case.  As for the Islamicists he is imposing himself as the sole, unconditional, unchallenged leader.

Will he arrest terrorists?  Probably not.  Instead he will ask them to curtail activities until he can “prove” Israel is not interested in making peace.

Israel’s best policy is to continue the targeted removals of terrorists and the building the security fence.