The Palestinians’ misfortune

Anyone who has paid attention to Yasser Arafat since the signing of the 1993 Oslo agreement knows that he is a master of the double game: making a show to the rest of the world of his desire for peace with Israel, while refusing to take the actions that would make peace possible.

For example Arafat has assured foreign leaders countless times that he is doing everything in his power to stop terrorism against Israelis– even as evidence mounted that he in fact was encouraging some of that terrorism. Now Haaretz reports that following the Ashdod bombings, Arafat has refused the demand of his own cabinet to act against Palestinian terrorist groups.

At a heated emergency meeting in Arafat’s Muqata compound in Ramallah – called in response to the suicide bombing in Ashdod Port two days ago, for which both Fatah and Hamas claimed responsibility – Interior Minister Hakem Balawi and the commander of the National Security forces, Haj Ismail Jabbar, both called upon Arafat to act against Hamas and Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Other ministers joined the call, warning Arafat of Israel’s expected harsh response to the attack and the international community’s reaction to the continuing chaos in the territories.

The ministers sought the authority to arrest Fatah activists acting independently and to apply all stages of a plan to restore control of the Palestinian street to the security forces. One Palestinian source in the cabinet said that some ministers even warned Arafat that Fatah members might be drafted into Hamas in Gaza. They also made it clear that the PA had lost control of Fatah’s military wing in some areas of both the West Bank and Gaza.

But according to the source, Arafat refused to allow arrests of Fatah activists and also turned down other aspects of the plan, such as the collection of illegal arms.

The one thing he could do to force Israel to deal seriously with the Palestinians– the one thing that could put legitimate worldwide (and Israeli) pressure on the Israeli government to respond generously– and Arafat refuses to do it. Yet his international apologists insist that he is powerless to act.

That Arafat is the leader of the Palestinians is a great misfortune for Israelis, but it is a far greater misfortune for Palestinians. Perhaps even his cabinet realizes that now.