By Steve Campbell
Illustration by Cody Angell
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday February 11, 2003
While everybody is focusing their sights on Saddam Hussein and Iraq, another world figure that harbors terrorism is quietly staying in power. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat remains at the helm, relishing the fact that the spotlight no longer is focused on him. It should be noted, however, that his days in power are numbered.
As soon as the situations in Iraq and North Korea are settled, the peace process in the Middle East will again take center stage, and as a result, Arafat will take his familiar position on the hot seat.
With the Israeli elections having just taken place, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is in the process of forming a coalition government in an effort to control the majority of the 120-seat parliament. In a move that opposes a United States-led peace plan, Sharon is leaning toward merging with the smaller, ultra-nationalist and ultra-orthodox parties.
This is sending a clear message to Arafat and the rest of the world that the Israeli people are now endorsing the conservative stance of a harsh military crackdown on the Palestinian uprising and a much tougher response to terrorist acts against Israeli civilians.
Peace in the Middle East will be achieved through one of three avenues of approach.
First, the Palestinians and Israelis wait it out. While Sharon has made it clear that he will not negotiate with Arafat, recent reports have surfaced over secret meetings being conducted between Sharon and Ahmed Qureia, widely believed to be Arafat's successor. The bottom line is clear: waiting it out won't work. It provides no immediate solution and no basis for future peace.
As long as the Israelis and Palestinians are taking no action, suicide bombers, funded by Arafat and groups in Iraq, will continue their reign of terror in the region.
The second option falls in the category of negotiations. This process was introduced under the Clinton administration. While it had some initial success, in the end, negotiations failed. Depending on who is asked, the collapse of the negotiations could be blamed on either side. Israel's policy of building settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank provoked the Palestinians into fighting back in what is evidently the only way they know how to: terrorism. On the other hand, Israel would say that they were in the process of completely withdrawing from the disputed regions when the Palestinians continued their terrorist ways by sending in suicide bombers.
Negotiations with Arafat obviously didn't work. If negotiations are to work, they need to be done with somebody other than Arafat.
The third way to achieve peace in the region is to completely remove Arafat from power. As a leader elected by his own people, this is not an option widely accepted around the world. Sometimes, however, the right choice is not always the popular choice.
Arafat has made no effort to stop the terrorism and shows no signs of wanting peace. As long as he remains in power with others (suicide bombers) doing his dirty work for him, peace will never be realized.
A former member of the Israeli National Security Team and current president of the Israeli Association of Political Science, Gideon Doron, recently spoke at UA and explained the attitude of most Israelis. "People want stability. While they want peace, they are ready to go to war to achieve that peace. They will not compromise with terrorists because this is a sign of weakness. If weakness is shown, then terror wins." This was proved in May 2000 when the Israelis pulled out of Lebanon only to have the Palestinians begin a guerrilla warfare campaign.
While the speaker was obviously pro-Israeli, the event itself was sponsored by groups with various stances on the topic. The Arizona Israel Alliance combined with the Alliance For Peace and Justice in the Middle East, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Judaic Studies Department to sponsor the event.
Even with the different views taken by these groups, one clear message stands out ÷ as long as this conflict continues, nobody wins.
The view expressed by AIA Vice President Rachael Levy is undoubtedly shared by the majority of people who are involved in or who follow the situation in the region. "History is being ruined by the conflict · and everybody loses out ÷ even Americans, in terms of history and religion."
When this conflict will come to an end is anybody's guess. Having Arafat relinquish what little power he has, however, is one way to start.