Arafat Will Never Make Deal With Israel, Author Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat will remain the leader of the Palestinian people as long as he lives and will never make a deal with Israel, an expert here said.

Arafat told reporters in Ramallah recently that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would not budge on implementing the U.S.-backed road map peace plan without great international pressure exerted on him.

But Professor Barry Rubin said it is Arafat who never had any intention of following through on a deal with Israel and never will.

According to Rubin, author of the recently released book Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography, Arafat is the father of Palestinian nationalism, but he is not motivated by the desire to see his people have a nation of their own and therefore, he will never conclude a peace agreement with Israel.

"A nationalist is basically someone who believes that his people are better off in having a nation state as the highest priority and then the use of that nation state to develop their culture, develop their economy to let them live in peace and independence from other countries," Rubin said.

"This is not Yasser Arafat's worldview. Because if it was, he could have had a state... in 1968, in 1979, at several points in the 1980s and certainly in the year 2000," Rubin told diplomats and others recently at the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in Jerusalem. "He continues to reject this and he sees rejecting this as a strong point."

According to Rubin, Arafat's worldview is that of an "old-fashioned" Islamist.

"As an Islamist...he believes the victory is inevitable because god will bring him victory. He does not have to worry about the balance of forces. He does not have to worry about a defeat. He does not have to worry about how long the struggle takes or about the costs because he will win in the end.

"And because his goal is god-given and just, it would be a sin to compromise. He has no right to give up anything and anything here means everything from the Jordan River to the [Mediterranean] Sea [i.e., Israel, the West Bank and Gaza]," Rubin said.

But according to Rubin, Arafat will not win because historically, he has made the same mistake over and over again.

He was ousted from Jordan after warring with government forces in 1970; he was ousted from Lebanon by then Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon in 1982; and he left Tunisia for the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1993, where he is currently involved in a terrorist war against Israel.

"[In] each phase he has basically ended up destroying his own position because of a number of things he's done - the belief that violence always benefits his cause; the belief that he doesn't have to implement his agreements; the use of extremist groups or front groups to commit violence," Rubin said.

"The bottom line here and the experience of the years 1993 to 2000 or 2003 have taught that you cannot make a deal with this man, for a variety of reasons and one of the reasons is he doesn't want to make a deal.

"Currently he is pursuing the anti-state strategy, continuing the struggle, making Israel look bad, mobilizing international support, getting more and more concessions and not offering to give anything in return. This is his strategy and it's been a remarkably successful strategy on paper," he said.

Because Arafat is not going to make a deal, Rubin said, an alternative must be found.
But attempts to replace Arafat have failed.

The international community pushed for Arafat to appoint Mahmoud Abbas as the first prime minister, whom they hoped would wrest power from Arafat but Abbas resigned after just four months in office, unable to compete with Arafat.

His successor, the current PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, is much closer to Arafat and has said he will not make a move with Arafat's blessing.

Rubin said on Friday that he believes Sharon reached the conclusion that no deal could be cut with Arafat three years ago and that is why he is talking now about making unilateral moves. He said he believes the suggestion of unilateral moves is an attempt by Sharon to show flexibility.

Sharon said earlier this week that if it became clear that the Palestinians had failed to keep their end of the bargain and were not going to implement the road map to peace, he would consider making comprehensive, unilateral security moves perhaps including moving some settlements.

Rubin said Israel can and must do four things at this point - "to fight and win the war forced upon them by Arafat; to protect the lives of Israeli civilians by completing construction of the security fence; to show continued flexibility [by offering something];" and to encourage the development of a moderate Palestinian leadership.

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