Details of the meetings held on February 8th between US President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon are emerging.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the Bush administration will not protest too vehemently if Israel’s isolation of Arafat will lead to the downfall of the PLO leader.
After a week in which Arafat delivered tirades almost every night in Ramallah to excoriate “hundreds of suicide bombers to die in the liberation of Jerusalem”, and after a week in which fatal PLO attacks claimed the lives of Israeli women almost every day, it would seem that few Israelis would shed a tear when Arafat leaves the scene.
The US and Israel have been quoted as seeking a successor to Arafat among the PLO’s “war lords”. The short term American and Israeli criteria for recognizing a successor to Arafat is simple: someone who would can maintain law and order and “prevent further terror”.
Indeed, as Ariel Sharon stepped off the plane from the US, he was “greeted” with yet another Arab terror attack in the Israeli city of Beersheva, which Arafat’s Palestinian Authority maps describe as an illegal Israeli settlement that replaced the Arab town of Bir A Sibi in 1948.
The official PBC radio of the Palestinian Authority has justified attacks in Israeli cities of Beer Sheva, Hadera, Netanya and Naharia, since these towns all replaced Arab villages in 1948, after which the residents of these and hundreds of other Arab towns were dumped into Arab refugee camps which are operated to this day by the UN, under the premise and promise of the “right of return” to the 531 Arab villages that were wiped out in 1948.
Under Arafat’s leadership, the Palestinian Authority mandated that the suffering in the refugee camps must continue.
Arafat has declared time and time again that the “right of return” must be the prime agenda item for his people. Therefore, the Intifada al Awhda, the “rebellion for the right of return” has become the slogan for the current state of unrest.
If Arafat is replaced by yet another Palestinian leader who believes in continuing to confine more than a million 1948 Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendents from 1948 to refugee camps under the “right of return”, the middle east will see more unrest, not less.
While at least one Palestinian Authority leader has declared that the time has come to abandon the idea of the right of return, he is not allowed to say so on any media outlet of Arafat’s regime.
That is because the “right of return” dominates all policy proclamations in the Arabic language radio, TV or newspapers of the Palestinian Authority since the emergence of the PA in 1994.
While many Israelis may be ready for a two state solution, such an idea is foreign to the ethos of the Palestinian Arab entity that Arafat has forged.
At this point in time, every candidate the US and Israel have examined to succeed Arafat has sworn allegiance to the Intifada al Awhda, the “rebellion for the right of return”.
Only if a Palestinian Arab leader emerges who will communicate to his people in their own language that he is ready to remove Arab refugee camps and live with Israel without advocating the “right of return”, will peace in the middle east be at all forseeable.
Bush and Sharon should keep that in mind and not look for short term solutions for “preventing terror”.