The late Fatah chairman and his dubious legacy continue to play a pivotal role.
By MICHAEL FREUND
Amid the hubbub over Israel’s planned construction in Jerusalem, agreat deal of attention has centered on the key actors in thisunfolding drama.Figures such as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, US Vice PresidentJoe Biden and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, as well as others, have allcome under intensive media scrutiny for their respective roles in whatis being billed as a serious crisis in US-Israel relations.In recent days, observers have pored over remarks made by varioussenior American officials in response to the Israeli move, carefullyparsing their choice of words and trying to distill the underlyingmotives behind the blistering criticism being directed against the Jewish state.But amid the speculation about where all this is headed, there is one key player who has been all but overlooked.INDEED, DESPITE the passage of more than five years since his death,Yasser Arafat and his dubious legacy of violence, threats andintimidation continue to play a pivotal part in our present predicament.And it is precisely the heritage of hate bequeathed by the Palestinianterrorist leader which lies at the root of the uncertainty and unrestthat now threatens to engulf the region.As if to underline this point, one need only have looked at thebackdrop to Biden’s March 10 press conference with PalestinianAuthority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.AdvertisementAbove the podium, a huge banner bedecked the wall, with the face of agrinning Arafat hovering right over the vice president as he condemnedIsrael’s plan to build in Jerusalem.The Netanyahu government’s decisions, Biden said, “undermine that verytrust we must right now begin,” as he called for the creation of anindependent Palestine. “The US”, he added, “is committed with its efforts to establishing a stable and viable Palestinian state.”Arafat himself couldn’t have said it any better. Perhaps withoutrealizing it, Biden was channeling Arafat’s ghost, parroting the latePalestinian leader’s nasty habit of blaming the Jewish state forharming the prospects for peace.Similarly, despite Biden’s pledge at the very same forum to “hold bothsides accountable for any statements or actions that will inflametensions or prejudice the outcome of talks,” he did not offer a singleword of condemnation for another one of Arafat’s favorite pastimes: anti-Israel incitement.Ironically enough, on the day after the press conference, thePalestinian Authority went ahead with plans to name a large publicsquare in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, who carried out the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre that killed more than three dozen Israelis,including 12 children.That attack, of course, was planned and perpetrated by Arafat’s Fatahfaction of the PLO, and the decision to commemorate it underlines theextent to which Israel’s ostensible partners in peace remain committedto glorifying and idolizing the violence and bloodshed that Arafat so lustily preached.Arafat’s influence was also on display in the build-up to the “Day ofRage” which Palestinians held in Jerusalem on Tuesday, as thePalestinian leadership flooded the airwaves with vicious anti-Israelslander.Recycling some of Arafat’s favorite lines, Palestinian officials soughtto inflame the public by accusing Israel of planning to demolish Muslimmosques on the Temple Mount.Fatah official Hatam Abdel Khader, for example, called on Palestiniansto “converge on Al-Aksa to save it” from what he described as “Israeliattempts to destroy the mosque and replace it with the Temple”.This was exactly the kind of libelous charge which Arafat was wont tohurl against the Jewish state in an effort to generate tension and fuelhatred.So despite what much of the mainstream media has been telling us, it isnot the decision by Israel to undertake a real estate project in aJewish neighborhood in Jerusalem which is threatening to derail theentire Middle East peace process. Rather, it is Arafat’s ongoinglegacy of hate which continues to poison the atmosphere, as well as its embrace by the present Palestinian leadership.It is a mindset which sees Israel as bearing sole responsibility forall that goes wrong, and one that aims to instill unending contempt inyet another generation of Palestinians.HENCE, ALL of the pressure that the Obama administration is bringing tobear on Jerusalem is entirely and thoroughly misplaced. If Washingtonis truly interested in forging a path forward, the first step must beto exorcize Arafat’s ghost from the Palestinian body politic, and tocompel Palestinian leaders to recognize the permanence of Israel as aJewish state in the region.The Palestinians must be held accountable for the violence they preach,the hatred they teach and the shameless lies which they spread withwild abandon. Failure to do so will only allow the phantom of Palestineto continue to cast a pall over the region, haunting any efforts at reconciliation.Simply put, it is time to drive Arafat’s ghost and legacy away from thescene. It is a daunting task, but it must be done. So stop focusing onconstructive works in Jerusalem, and start concentrating on thedestructive words that are emanating from Ramallah. Therein lies the key to forestalling the next conflagration.
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