After Arafat: Hopes and Fears
Jack Miles (“Bad News for Jews,” Opinion, Nov. 7) suggests that the reelection of George W. Bush coupled with Chairman Yasser Arafat’s likely death will dash the hopes for the “road map” peace plan and the hope for a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza.
But Miles is way too pessimistic in his analysis, ignoring the real possibility that Bush will finally realize that the road to Baghdad runs through Jerusalem. That is, sorting out the Israeli-Palestinian problem is necessary to achieve stability in Iraq. And once the United States decides that the Israeli-Palestinian problem must be solved, coupled with Arafat’s death, there is no stopping peace.
La Habra Heights
Miles suggests that Bush’s reelection will be bad for Israel now that Arafat is fading fast from the picture. When it comes to Israel, the U.S. was a one-party nation long before Bush arrived on the scene. All that this president has done is squander whatever meager political peace-process capital was left after President Clinton’s failure at the last, best chance for a two-state solution.
In recent polls of Middle East Arabs, the two most important reasons for America’s invasion of Iraq are oil and support to Israel. If you listen to Osama bin Laden (and apparently many outside the U.S. do), the most important reason for 9/11 and terrorism against America is our blind, uncritical support for Israel. Looks like four more years of the same, and that is bad news for all of us.
Miles, as a non-Jew, is worried about the passing of Arafat and the reelection of Bush as twin portents of doom. The Jewish people should not be upset by these developments. Arafat, in a 1996 speech in Stockholm to an Arab audience, explicitly stated that his goal was the elimination of Israel.
Bush understood the Palestine Liberation Organization’s leader quite well, and concluded that Arafat was unwilling to allow the two-state solution to come about in security for both.
Bush was aware that during negotiations with Clinton, Arafat responded to the most forthcoming offer for peace by Israel by launching the second intifada in 2000. Bush shunned giving diplomatic legitimacy to the thug who ran the Palestinian Authority, preferring to await the development of a democratic government for the Palestinian people.
Now, with Arafat soon passing from the scene, and with the president in a politically strengthened position, there is finally some hope, no matter how dim, that things might take a change for the better. Miles has things exactly backward.
While reading Dennis Ross’ “The Man Who Married a Cause” (Commentary, Nov. 7), which describes Arafat’s practice of fabricating realities that support his strategic goals, it struck me that this might represent a particular breed of postmodern leadership best illustrated by the case of Bush -- for whom reality is merely a tool to be bent to the pursuit of whichever endgame is currently in play. Then, truth is subjective.
Just as, for Arafat, the Israelis could be treated as though they had actually moved 250 tanks into the Gaza Strip, just so, for Bush, the Iraqi people could be treated as though they were ruled by a leader in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Once the lie is worded, it is indeed embodied into reality. May the gods have mercy upon the innocent who get trampled beneath the galloping hoofs of the belief-blinded crusaders.
I understand that when a man is on his deathbed, the polite thing to do is to say nice things about him, but Ross, a former U.S. envoy to the Middle East, carried this gesture too far. In summing up the life of Arafat, Ross fails to mention that Arafat’s greatest influence has been the unleashing of terror attacks against civilian populations for almost 40 years. The deaths and maiming that can be attributed to Arafat’s organizations and imitators are in the thousands.
The fact that Ross refuses to mention the murder of innocent civilians while devoting so much of his comment to Arafat’s negotiating techniques, self-delusions and unwillingness to take vacations is an outrage. Is the world of the diplomat that far removed from the world of the victims?