All clips from Friday, November 05, 2004:
Ma’ariv (p. 1) by Dan Margalit (news analysis) — Yasser Arafat is dead. At least, he is as good as dead.
He hoisted a flag. Stabbed with a sword. Refused to build a home.
He was a successful diplomat. The founding father of the nation, who did not plan to capture such an important place in the world arena. A wily trickster, who played at every diplomatic poker table without any cards.
He was a serial swindler. A liar when necessary and even when unnecessary. Supremely corrupt and an indubitable despot.
Arafat was the only Palestinian who could deviate from the three nays of the Khartoum conference: no negotiations, no recognition and no peace with Israel. He indeed declared “kaduk” in 1988. Thus he allowed dialogue with Israel with the intention of making peace.
But he also was the one who missed the opportunity for peace in a completely deliberate manner. In 2000 he rejected Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton, who agreed to discuss the division of Jerusalem in favor of Palestine. In order to sabotage a peace of compromise, he stuck to the “right of return.” His alternative was the Intifada. Palestinian terror cost 1,080 Israeli lives. And thrice that in Palestinian lives. This made no impression on him.
40 years after he placed his first bomb north of the Sea of Galilee, one may sum up at his death that Arafat wanted to go all the way in the direction of peace, but never actually to reach the goal. He fashioned a nation out of the Palestinians, but perpetuated their backwardness.
After 2000, he had no political agenda. Only “forever shall you swallow the sword.” This made him irrelevant.
Because his refusal of peace resulted in Yitzhak Rabin’s, Shimon Peres’s, and Ehud Barak’s political downfall, this did not leave Ariel Sharon any alternative except a unilateral plan. That is the disengagement plan. He could call it after himself.
It belongs to him even after he disappears from the scene. Because whether the next Palestinian leadership will want negotiations with Israel regarding the road map or whether it will eschew it, it will not dare to do it in any case. It is unable. In the immediately foreseeable future it will not have the moral force or public power to deviate from Arafat’s refusal of peace. The disengagement will remain the only plan in the arena.
It is doubtful whether he wanted it to be carried out without him. It is clear that he was not inclined to view it as the last event in his life. However, since he was imprisoned in the mukataa, and understood that the world was disgusted with him – in American and Europe and even in most of the Arab countries – he did not have the power within him to bring about a change in the arena. Not even to stop the terror, although it is very doubtful whether he wished to do so.
Now what is required is only more Israeli restraint, which in the meantime Sharon is maintaining successfully. Also respect for an enemy. Despite who he was, humiliation is not the right move on Israel’s part. Arafat has gone, the Palestinians whom he fashioned into a people will be here with us forever.
He Brought Destruction and Ruins Upon His People
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 7) by Dr. Guy Bechor (news analysis) — The author is a Middle East analyst at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.
Yasser Arafat brought great benefit to the Palestinian issue, but also much harm. The one who knew how to seize the vacuum in the Palestinian leadership in the fifties and who consolidated the miserable refugees into a nation was Arafat. But when he was supposed to lead them to sovereignty, he failed and in the last four years he brought destruction upon his people.
An assumption of the Oslo agreement was that Arafat would act like Ben-Gurion, and would become a prime minister instead of a revolutionary. This assumption was proven false and was the basis of the failure of the agreement.
It turned out that Yasser Arafat did not intend to resolve the problems of the Palestinian nation. He remained mired in the Palestinian problem without knowing how to implement a transition, as Ben-Gurion knew. He remained hovering in eternal Arab and Islamic issues without knowing when to descend to the ground of reality. When he came to politics, 30 year ago, the Palestinians were without a clear leadership. This is how they remain upon his death, as Arafat all his life blocked his heirs, and his death heralds a troubling uncertainty towards which the Palestinians are marching.
Arafat admired verbiage, rhetoric, summits and halls, the opposite of the Zionist movement, which did not believe in words. It believed in deeds, and thus created Israel, one of the most successful countries in the world. Arafat, who was built with words, was left with nothing. He was left with world legitimacy for the Palestinians, but with zero achievements. Israel was left with many achievements, but with blemished legitimacy.
Yasser Arafat was the last of the historic Arab leaders after Kings Hussein and Hassan II and Presidents Sadat and Assad passed away. As opposed to all of these, he was the only one who remained stuck in the fifties, in the Nasserite era, with the hollow ideas of Arab unity, without understanding that the USSR no longer exists, and that the criteria of the world had changed.
He did not understand that his “armed struggle” was no longer considered in the world as heroic liberation, but simply as terror. He did not see how political Islam was increasingly gaining the upper hand in the Palestinian camp instead of his nationalism, which failed. He brought with him to the territories a culture which was not known there before: militarization, the worship of death, anti-Israel ideology and ties to the world of defiance in the Arab world.
And actually, he caused great harm to the State of Israel and its generations, through the use of terror methods, sleight of hand and delusions. He split Israeli society, which tried to guess at his murky intentions, but thus also lost his credibility. Despite endless meetings held with him, Arafat did not really recognize the State of Israel and the Jews as being a people and a nation. At the most he saw them as a religion and a culture. Until his last day, he even refrained from humanizing the Israeli side.
But Yasser Arafat was also the first Palestinian leader who brought about the first historical contact between the Palestinian national movement, i.e., the PLO, and the Jewish nationalist movement, Zionism. He himself failed, but he set a precedent for generations. The next contact, should it take place one day, should be easier.
The Day After
Who’s Against Whom
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. B10) by Roni Shaked — “He’ll be back,” they said on Tuesday in Ramallah, after the statement was issued that Arafat did not have cancer. But despite this wishful thinking, Abu Mazen’s leadership has begun to consolidate itself. While the doctors say Arafat will be hospitalized for four-five weeks [this article was written earlier in the week] and while the new Palestinian leadership wishes the rais health, they hope his convalescence will be longer. Every day that passes with Arafat in Paris, say security officials in Ramallah, helps the Palestinian street say good-by to him, not in one blow, but through accepting his condition and accepting the new leadership.
“We have to accumulate experience for the day after Arafat,” says Khatem Abed el-Kader, a senior Fatah official and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
While there is anarchy in the territories, there is also the fear that Arafat’s passing will intensify them, and as a result, others will also try to take control of the Palestinian Authority even if this means internal war.
In the meantime, Abu Mazen this week assumed power without opposition, with Prime Minister Abu Ala by his side. Their rule is being backed by Mohammed Dahlan, the Gaza strong man, and by Jibril Rajoub, the Fatah West Bank strong man. The PLO Executive Committee and the Palestinian Legislative Council also gave their support.
The real war of succession will begin in the coming days, but already now, there are rumblings under the surface. All eyes were on Paris this week, and many harbored the fear that Arafat, the man with nine lives, will manage to recover, return and take his seat as in days gone by.
Arafat deliberately did not name a successor all these years. He had no deputy, no alternate. He did not build a leadership for the day he would depart this world. Everything was in his hands: he was the PLO chairman, the president of Palestine, the head of Fatah, the supreme commander of the security organizations (“that’s why I wear uniform, I’m a general,” he used to say), and he was the sole controller of the money-nobody, except for him, knew how much, why and where it was hidden.
At this stage, as said, Abu Mazen has not encountered any resistance to the reforms he has begun. For example, security authority, which Arafat never agreed to give up, was transferred on Sunday to Prime Minister Abu Ala. The separation that Abu Mazen announced between the PLO Executive Committee, which he heads, and the PA institutions, also passed without opposition. While the PLO will be making diplomatic decisions, all government authority will be in the hands of the government and those who head it.
This model, of a collective leadership, is likely to be the model from here on in. Abu Mazen hopes to be helped by two-three top veteran leaders, first and foremost Abu Ala, and along with them, people like Yasser Abed Rabbo, Saeb Erekat and Nabil Shaath, and to maintain the leadership with the backing of Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub. The plan is that after an interim period of two-three years, there will be a changing of the guard between the generations.
War of Generations
As to who will seize power in the next stage, it’s too early to say. Obviously after Arafat is gone there will be a tremendous outpouring of emotion, expressed in mass demonstrations and symbolic funerals in all cities, villages and refugee camps, in the territories and outside. These demonstrations will last at least for the three days of mourning, after which the Palestinians will wake up to a new day.
Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub will most likely fight for the succession, but also people like Marwan Barghouti.
Mohammed Dahlan has never concealed his intentions. In the meantime he has no significant power base in the West Bank, and that is why he is willing to wait a year or two. As Abu Mazen’s right hand man, he believes he will accrue power also outside of the Gaza Strip, and this power will be a spring board for the presidency. Arafat, who knew exactly who was against whom, summoned Dahlan to his room in the mukataa immediately after he agreed to be taken to Paris. “You’re going with me,” he told him. Despite the sulha between them a month ago, Arafat wanted to make sure that Dahlan did not carry out a coup. Incidentally, Arafat also asked Abu Mazen to go with him, but the latter did not heed his request.
Jibril Rajoub has similar aspirations. His power base relies on Fatah in the West Bank. He was the dynamo behind the first Intifada, and he has battalions and troops in every West Bank city, particularly in the Hebron region. The members of the Preventive Intelligence Service still obey his authority.
The two have almost not spoken to each other for over a year and a half, but Abu Mazen’s people have promised that he will soon initiate a sulha between them.
The members of the Fatah middle generation, such as Sofian Abu Zaida, Hisham Abed el-Razak, Fares Kadura, Hussein a-Sheikh and Samir Masharawi, who led the first Intifada, and the younger generation, of Khatem Abed el-Kader, Ahmed Ghanem or Jamal Shubaki, will also want a piece of the pie. As part of the generation power swap, they are likely to take the place of the PLO-abroad people, people like Hani el Hassan, Zohadi Nashashibi, Sahar Habash and Hakam Bilawi, who came to the territories after the Oslo accords were signed, almost a decade ago, and will lose their power when Arafat goes.
Hamas will Wait
Another important player is Hamas; however, the missiles that assassinated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Abdul Aziz Rantisi and Salah Shehade have left them without a top leader. Dr. Mahmoud a-Zahar or Ismail Haniya are not the type of leader Rantisi was, who planned to seize Palestinian rule. In the West Bank too, Hamas has no leader who can challenge the Palestinian leadership. Nizar Rian of Gaza, is one of the new names that should be remembered, because he is likely to reach a top spot in the organization, but in the meantime, when Hamas is weaker, it will be easier for Arafat’s successor to take control of Gaza.
Hamas is not only a terror organization, it is first a political movement for whom pubic support is important. Therefore, its leaders will not at this time approve any action that endangers its existence and will not try to carry out a coup or take power by force. In general, for Hamas, time is not the most important factor, and “patience and staying power” are one of its mottos. Allah’s justice will triumph, if not in this generation, then in the next.
In the coming period Hamas will try and take over PA institutions and municipal institutions through democratic means. Its leaders have already announced that its representatives will take part in municipal elections to be held in a few months, and Hamas will most likely also take part in the general elections. Mahmoud a-Zahar went even father and announced that Hamas has a plan for battling the anarchy.
On the other hand, Hamas will not allow the PA security organizations to disarm its men, mainly not Mohammed Deif’s Iz a Din al-Qassam. The expected outcome: a hudna between Abu Mazen’s new regime, which has declared that it is opposed to terror, and the terror organization and the more radical factions.
The Palestinian Legislative Council, headed by Ruhi Fatouh, is already preparing the laws to make it possible to turn Hamas into a political party. “Our plan,” says Palestinian Legislative Council member Abed el-Kader, “is to change their agenda, from bombing bosses to a democratic battle, like that of the Islamic movements in Jordan and in Egypt.”
Some of the other organizations-the Popular Front and the Democratic Front on the Left to Islamic Jihad on the Right-do not constitute a threat to the PA, and its security organizations will not be deterred from battling them. In contrast, the El-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the gangs operating in Jenin and in Nablus with Hizbullah sponsorship, such as Zakariya Zubeidi’s gang in Jenin, are liable to cause Arafat’s successor a big headache. They did not listen to Arafat, and it’s hard to believe they will listen to his successor. Abu Mazen will have to find a way to get rid of this nuisance. He will have to reach a national consensus to stop terror attacks, so that the individual terrorist does not destroy all his efforts, as happened when he was prime minister-until Israel assassinated Salah Shehade.
The General Intelligence Service headed by Amin el-Hindi, like the Preventive Intelligence Service, will support Abu Mazen. Moussa Arafat, commander of the security organizations in Gaza, will have to leave Gaza once his patron is gone. Otherwise, he is liable to be the victim of an assassination. The troops he abandons will not challenge the government.
In general, the Palestinian Authority has a number of people who have accumulated power alongside and in the shadow of Arafat, and it is already clear to them that they will have to vanish along with him. This is true for Mohammed Rashid, Arafat’s confidante on financial matters. Rashid, a Kurd by origin, is now in Paris by the rais’s side. He is the man who knows the financial secrets, who knows the bank accounts where the PA money is hidden, and after he hands this over to the new rulers-he will no doubt be quick to vanish.
War on Corruption
The chances of a civil war breaking out among the Palestinians are very small. Riots can definitely be expected, but they will not be directed against Palestinian Authority institutions or against people in power, but against the institutions and figures considered corrupt. A number of houses have already been marked for looting in Gaza-for example, the homes of Ghazi Jabali and Moussa Arafat, as well as a number of “Tunis generation” people who came with Arafat in 1995, ate at his table, built splendid homes and acquired property. When Arafat goes they will lose their power, their position and are liable to lose their possessions too.
Khatem Abed el-Kader: “As members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, we will demand a war on corruption. If the new government doe not punish the corrupt by law, the street will punish them in its own way. Just as the street does with collaborators.”
And Imad Shakur, Arafat’s adviser on Israeli affairs, says: “We are not seeking one successor to Arafat, but rather successors. We want a real prime minister, a real Fatah secretary, and a real PLO leader, who are elected, whom we applaud for their successes, to whom we can point out their mistakes, and after a few years, replace democratically, like in other countries in the world.”
They have even begun to tell jokes in Nablus and in Gaza about the black goat brought into the house (by Israel), which ruined the furniture, disrupted the household-and when it was removed ten years later, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Assessment: Riots in Territories Not Anticipated
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 4) by Yossi Yehoshua et al. — Security establishment officials were surprised at the relatively small number of Palestinians who went to the mukataa when the deterioration in Arafat’s condition became known. Thus IDF and police officials increasingly believe that the Palestinian street response to his death will be more moderate than anticipated.
Meanwhile, security officials are not taking any chances. Yesterday IDF forces increased their alert in Judea and Samaria, and operational instructions for the days following Arafat’s death were reviewed. OC Central Command officials prepared the “New Page” order, according to which huge demonstrations and symbolic funerals will be held in every city, village and refugee camp in the West Bank. Most of them will also be demonstrations against Israel. In addition, terrorist elements controlled by Hizbullah will try to carry out terror attacks against IDF forces and settlers, in order to indicate their plans to continue fighting. Soldiers in the field were instructed to demonstrate maximum restraint in their contacts with the Palestinian population, in order to prevent conflagrations.
The parallel police order, “Different Reality,” includes preparations for disturbances in Arab communities and at roadblocks between Israel and the territories. In such cases, the police are expected to activate the operational commands set up in the wake of the October events, and deploy at strategic points in Jerusalem, near large Arab towns, and next to roadblocks. For the moment, it was decided that the police have no need for reinforcements and police intelligence sources believe, according to information received by the police and GSS, that no widespread disturbances are anticipated.
A new deployment is anticipated in settlements adjacent to Palestinian communities, including the city of Hebron, which is considered a very sensitive focal point. The forces received instructions not to enter Palestinian towns and villages on the day of the funeral and to demonstrate caution at the roadblocks. The IDF will operate aerial observation during the three days of mourning, out of concern that the outpouring of emotions could lead to terror operations. Special attention will be directed at the prayers on Friday on the Temple Mount, in case they are exploited for incitement purposes. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz instructed restricted entry to Palestinian residents into Israeli territory, out of concern that they would increase the tension.
Cherchez la Femme
Pulling the Strings
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 5) by Smadar Peri and Sefi Hendler — The person responsible for the plethora of rumors circulating regarding Arafat’s condition is Suha.
Arafat’s wife – who in recent years has not been living with him, but since his hospitalization in Paris has been consistently by his side – is the one who haughtily rules over the statements issued to the media. She was also the one who dictated to the press the contents of the statements issued yesterday by the hospital spokesman, and insisted that it include an explicit denial, i.e., “Arafat is not dead.” Not one word, of course, about the clinical death into which he had lapsed.
Already from the outset, it was Suha who controlled matters. Despite the thousands of kilometers that separated them, when the rais’s serious condition became known, it was she who decided to hospitalize him in a military hospital in France. After he landed in Paris, she appeared by his side, wearing a black coat and carrying an expensive bag, while he was lying on the stretcher.
Suha was one of the only ones allowed to stay in the rais’s room in the hospital, and was even assigned a nearby room so that she would not have to encounter the many journalists who swarmed the place when she came and left. With much determination, she also extracted from the hospital doctors a commitment in advance that all statements about Arafat’s condition be relayed only by her loyal confidant, veteran ambassador to Paris, Leila Shahid.
The French never thought to protest Suha’s requests. To the contrary, they were happy to grant Arafat maximum protection against the invasive media together with devoted medical treatment. France is known for its tradition of hiding medical information, with the best known example being the concealment of the cancer suffered by the previous president, Francois Mitterrand.
Yesterday afternoon, when Arafat’s condition deteriorated greatly, the doctors informed Suha that there was no hope. According to a report by an Al-Jazeera network journalist, the doctors told Suha that there was nothing more that could be done, and that the decision was in her hands as to when to disconnect Arafat from the machines. According to the report, Suha asked for more time to get organized.
What exactly does she have to organize? First of all the funeral arrangements. The dispute about the place of burial must be resolved, permits must be obtained, a list of invitees must be drawn up, and the order of speeches must be determined. But no less important are the unresolved financial issues that Arafat has left behind.
Forbes magazine recently ranked Arafat in ninth place on the list of the wealthiest leaders in the world, with USD 200 million. Yesterday people conjectured that the delay in relaying an official announcement about Arafat’s condition stemmed from inheritance battles that have already begun in the hospital. These speculations were reinforced in view of the fact that Arafat’s financial adviser, Mohammed Rashid, whose relations with Suha are shaky, has arrived in Paris. Suha and Rashid are the only two people who know the bank account numbers in which Arafat deposited huge amounts of PA funds, but each one knows of different accounts.
According to rumors, as soon as she arrived in Ramallah last week, Suha began a “signing spree,” in order to obtain power of attorney from her husband for accounts in Paris and other assets. In addition, she tried to distance Rashid from Arafat’s sick bed, so that, heaven forefend, he would not discover the secret numbers that only she knew. No one really knows how much money Arafat is hiding in secret accounts, but undoubtedly Suha will soon be very wealthy.
The View from the Arab World
Crocodile Tears in the Arab World
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 8) by Smadar Peri (news analysis) — Rulers of the Arab world will not dare to openly say “good riddance.” We can expect a hail of emotional eulogies in the next few days, and the Arab media will pour tens of thousands of words on the leader who was the symbol of Palestinian people.
But the truth must be said: not even one leader from throughout the Arab and Islamic world intends to shed a tear over his departure. Not one of them could stand him during his life, not a man trusted him. Arafat is leaving this world without managing to leave behind even one ally or personal friend.
Mubarak considered him an obstacle. King Abdullah never stopped suspecting him of plotting to ignite Jordan. Rulers of the Gulf emirates never forgave Arafat for his cooperation with Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War. Saudi Arabia, Syria and Libya did not let Arafat into their countries for over a decade. Lebanon, which considers itself a victim of Arafat’s bloody terror, will not dare to defy Bashar Assad, who inherited his father’s scorn and loathing of Arafat.
Egypt, Tunis and Jordan went to the trouble of sending doctors to Arafat when his death approached, but nobody thought of offering Arafat hospitalization in their own countries.
From the perspective of the rulers of the Arab world, Arafat’s departure comes at a good time: they have not yet covered from their disappointment over President Bush’s re-election, but in the same breath, the Arab world believes that this same Bush is already determined to put the roadblock at the top of his priorities and to impose pressure on Sharon. The “no partner” is gone. Now is the time to pave the way to disengagement through consent and to hold negotiations with a Palestinian leadership that will not involve all its members in deceit, Arafat-style.
The leaders of the Arab world have good reason to align with Abu Mazen in the battle over the Palestinian street. Abu Mazen is good for the Jordanian royal house. Egypt has learned to trust him. We can guess that Mubarak will also display more impressive zeal to help train Palestinian security officers ahead of disengagement. The Saudi royal house is already preparing to fund “positive projects” under the new leadership that arises.
While Arafat will go down in the history of the Arab world as the symbol of the Palestinian revolution, he will also go down as someone who exploited his position to steal and to oppress his people.
The stories of Arafat’s financial corruption, of the billions smuggled overseas and of Suha Arafat’s shopping sprees, have found their way to the man in the Arab street.
When the hail of pretty words stops, the Arab world will not part from him with a kiss. The leaders, those who bother to come to his funeral, will walk behind the coffin with a sense of relief. They couldn’t manage with him, but they can definitely manage without him.