Yasser Arafat. In certain ways, this Palestinian is a true enigma. In others, he is one of the most transparent, predictable leaders in the world today.

Surprisingly, it is precisely the predictable side of Arafat that seems to fool other leaders around the globe. His moves are obvious — he needs to placate. His public statements are for the express purpose of bolstering the perpetually faltering morale of the Palestinian people. His motives are personal. And so he lies, he misappropriates funds, he makes promises he has no intention of fulfilling.

He gets away with it, time after time, move after move, lie after lie.

Fooling the world, duping his own people.

Putting it as succinctly as possible, Arafat will not ever, voluntarily, relinquish power and control. He does not compromise.

This is his personal credo:

I am in complete charge.
I am the font of all power.
I say whatever — I do whatever.
It is all for me.

That is why he rants. That is why he acts with reckless disregard for his people. That is why he abuses the rules of international diplomacy with seeming aplomb. And that is why he is at times perceived as a madman, at times as a genius.

Arafat is one of the wealthiest leaders in the world. But Arafat is not a monarch, born with a silver nargila in his mouth like so many others in the region.

And the Palestinian territory is not oil rich, placing him in charge of countless, priceless natural resources.

So how did it happen? Psychologically, Yasser Arafat is incapable of parting with money that was given him. In his eyes monies that he raised, ostensibly for his people, are his profits. And the money given to the Palestinian Authority, he truly believes, belongs to him. No matter that it was given for economic aid, or to feed the poor, to build roads, or to bring plumbing and electricity into the 21st century. It is his. That is why he writes the checks and approves allocations. That is why he pays the salaries of security personnel. That is why policemen, security men, and terrorists are accountable to him – personally, not merely politically.

There is almost no pressure that can be placed on Arafat that will ever force him to relinquish power, even some power. Bill Clinton failed miserably and George W. Bush is in the process of failing. Kofi Annan, even with his soft spoken understanding ways is failing as surely as the European Union and their compelling fig leaf of serious monetary aid. Israel has, is, and will probably continue to fail in forcing Arafat out or in diminishing his real power. Even his compatriots, other Arab leaders, strong Arab leaders, like Egypt’s Mubarak and Jordan’s kings, the late Hussein and his son Abdallah, have failed in reigning Arafat in. The only challenge that Arafat really feels, that frightens him, is from the Palestinian street, which is his power base and his popular support.

He can play with them and he can dupe them. But when the street becomes too restless, Arafat panics. And that’s when he reacts. There is one thing that is certain to those of us who have studied Arafat… love of his personal power and the need to maintain his personal control are motivating forces driving his life and his decisions.

That is precisely why, days after turmoil hit the streets of Gaza in the form of kidnappings and resignations, Yasser Arafat signed a document that unified the many Palestinian security forces into 3 divisions: a local branch, a national branch, and an intelligence branch.

When the street needed to be reassured, Arafat reassured them. But in truth, it was just window dressing. How am I so sure? Not only because that would be true to Arafat’s form, but because immediately after signing the document, Arafat told the Palestinian prime minister, Abu Ala, that he had no intention of relinquishing his personal control over the armed militias and security services. None.

So why did he choose that form of response? Why didn’t Arafat make some other concession to his people? Because his hand was being forced by outside intervention. Egypt and the United States have put Arafat on a timetable.

Egypt threatened that unless Arafat unified the security services by July 20, he would suffer the consequences. And the consequences include Egypt accepting almost all of Israel’s positions on the Gaza compromise – a move that is tantamount to Egypt turning its back on the Palestinian people and leadership.

So Arafat shuffled some papers and moved some people around all in the hopes of convincing the Egyptians and the US and the Palestinian people that changes were made.

It has happened before, it’s nothing new. Arafat has seen his support erode and searched for a way to win it back many times. Ironically, in the past, it was often Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces who orchestrated his fall and rise, unintentionally, of course, by placing him in a situation that forced his hand and then forced him to rise to the challenge.

And this time again, really, nothing has changed. Nothing at all.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. He is the author of “What You Need To Know About: Terror”.

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