Legacy of a Terrorist
Dictators make bad neighbors. And make no mistake; before he is an Arab, before he is a Palestinian, even before he is a Muslim, Yasser Arafat is a dictator.
When he founded the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964, there was not a single “Jewish settlement” to oppose nor an “Israeli occupation” to resist because the West Bank was ruled by Jordan and Gaza was ruled by Egypt. Arafat created the PLO to destroy Israel. But he learned quickly that he could not lead the “holy crusade” before first consolidating his power over a fractious and scattered people. The only way to do that was to kill those who challenged him and scare those who might be oppressing everyone else.
It took an inarticulate Israeli general-turned-prime minister to best articulate the fatal mindset from which Oslo was born. The PLO leader, said Yitzhak Rabin, was the ideal peace partner precisely because he was a dictator. Arafat could crack down on terrorists, Rabin said, because “unlike us, he doesn’t have to worry about elections or human rights groups.” Thus Israel helped birth the mortally dangerous terrorist state in its midst. Rather than forcing a more open Palestinian political system, Arafat has been given both the time and resources to consolidate his regime to the point where peace with it is now impossible.
Until pressured by the United States and growing unrest among some disgruntled Palestinians, Arafat, like other dictators, had no need to worry about losing an election; but he certainly had to worry about losing his life. Those most likely to take it are the very extremists he has armed, funded, and trained. Therefore, the notion that Yasser Arafat would crack down on the organizations he needs to survive is laughable.
Arafat isn’t going to crack down on terrorists because they might kill him if he does; and they help him if he doesn’t. In fact, these groups provide Arafat’s regime with the best insurance that stolen American aid money can buy. They keep the national focus on fighting the external enemy rather than on the failings of their leader. If the elections scheduled for January 2003 are, in fact, free and fair, Arafat and crew will be forced to run on their records—and they most definitely have records.
Since its creation in 1994, Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (PA) has presided over the complete collapse of the Palestinian economy. Arafat received control over a relatively prosperous people and rapidly impoverished them. He was given billions of dollars of foreign aid and squandered what he and his cronies didn’t steal.
Under his rule, Palestinians have been robbed of nearly two-thirds of their collective national wealth. The gross domestic product is down seventy percent. Virtually nothing remains of what was once a reasonably vibrant private sector. Corruption exists on a scale so pandemic that even the normally approving Europeans no longer abide it.
Public infrastructure has disintegrated. Public health standards, the highest in the Arab world just seven years ago, are now the lowest. And if that weren’t bad enough, last year Arafat started a terrorist war against Israel that has reduced the Palestinians to their most desperate conditions since the creation of Israel in 1948. A record like that will be tough to run on.
Arafat claims he can’t be held responsible for the actions of extremists and does not have the power or authority to stop them. Yet he alone controls the state-run media that creates the climate necessary to generate suicide bombers and public support for terrorism. Arafat has intentionally fomented the cry for Israeli blood and has let Hamas and Islamic Jihad fulfill it.
Arafat and Hamas aren’t rivals. They are two sides of the same coin—codependents. Arafat has no difficulty cracking down on moderate opponents, only his terrorist allies. Those who challenge him to open up the press, fight corruption, and calm tensions with Israel are shown no mercy. For them, retribution is swift and merciless.
But Arafat needs Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the extremists to divert his people’s hatred; and Jihad, Hamas, and the extremists need Arafat to provide the “moderate” cover they require to continue their murderous acts of terror. The simple truth is, Arafat needs terrorism much more than he needs Colin Powell.