January 30, 2004

Shin Bet Watch

"The security service also predicts that if Yasser Arafat remains in charge of the Palestinian Authority, terror attacks can be expected all the way to 2006, for lack of any political progress that includes the Palestinian security services fighting terrorism.

According to Shin Bet information, Arafat is not ordering any terror attacks but neither is he allowing any internal attempts to unify the security services under anyone else, like Mahmoud Abbas, Mohammed Dahlan or Ahmed Qureia, who has been denied any control over any security services.."

from Haaretz.

I think that's about right. Arafat is unwilling to give up real power to a potential heir apparent. And he's unwilling and/or incapable to engage in a good faith, bottom-up, security reform effort.

As we don't meet with him--we don't really have much leverage. If we did meet with him--he'd probably be ineffective regardless.

So, you say, why not let the Israelis get rid of him?

Because, simply, he is viewed as the spiritual embodiment, like it or not, of Palestinian national aspirations. To kill him would cause huge turmoil. And to exile him would change nothing.

He'd issue commands to his cronies from Tunis or wherever.

So the status quo of violence is with us for the forseeable future in the absence of any creative American diplomacy, an ineffective and duplicitous Arafat, and a pretty obstinate Sharon uninterested in any major 'Nixon goes to China' type major diplomatic initiatives.

Regardless, it's worth keeping in mind, Arafat will die, in some fashion, someday.

Why are so few people in Washington thinking about the post-Arafat scene?

Do we want the Territories being roamed by myriad militia groups in anarchic fashion once he's dead?

I'm told by credible sources that people like Mohammed Dahlan control only modest sectors of Gaza.

Barghouti, of course, is in jail.

Abbas and Qureia are viewed, by many, as corrupt stooges--so lack street cred.

Is anyone at Langley looking at the next generation? Someone with popularity on the street who is also moderate and willing to negotiate with the Israelis?

These days, probably not.

Note:

Reader Daniel Aronstein writes in regarding this earlier Middle East related post:

"I stand by my major point and against yours: the seeming inactivity of the Bush Administration in the Arab-Israeli conflict was actually very good policy: isolating Arafat was the best way to get him to appoint aPM and get the PNA on the road to a democratic, non-terrorist Palestinian state.

Without a PM willing to crack down on the Arab terrorist groups, there can be no negotiations, and therefore no statehood for the Arab Palestinians.

There has been no such PM; there is still no such PM.

Therefore, lack of progress must be accredited to the fact that the PNA has of today still no effective PM.

You reasonably can't blame that on Bush or Sharon."

What I guess I'm getting at is that Washington needs to be doing more to bolster real and credible alternatives to Arafat.

And, more generally, our diplomacy has lacked ingenuity, passion, direction and consistency.

Trench warfare between different Administration camps has led to drift in our Middle East peacemaking efforts. The President is not involved. Condi Rice doesn't actively broker between the bickering factions.

I don't blame anyone for the fact that Arafat is ineffective and that Abu Mazen couldn't do his job because of Arafat's interference (and that Sharon didn't help him with some concessions in the nascent stage of his PMship.).

But I do blame, generally, Washington's inattention (at the top) to this grave crisis for so many months now. Believe me, it's not a positive factor for the regional equation.

Posted by Gregory at January 30, 2004 07:52 PM
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