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Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Left Can't Get It Right

Op-Ed by Yaron Rivlin at Maariv
Although the agreements with the Palestinians were based on a great deal of hope, there was some logic behind them too: The big inflow of money to the Palestinian authority would enhance its citizens’ welfare; they would put economic welfare above national and religious ideas, and would press the rulers to call for peace and tranquility. In other words, economic welfare eliminates the motivation for war.

This assumption is true, but there is at least one missing link in this chain and it alters the picture. A great deal of money did reach the Palestinian Authority. However, it did not benefit the Authority’s citizens.

Another basic assumption -- that the Palestinian Authority would be democratic – was refuted completely. So the socio-political-economic dynamic was the opposite of what was expected. In western democracies, the survival of a ruler depends upon the improved economic state of the nation. In a dictatorship, by contrast, revenue remains in the hands of a few rulers (Arafat, in the case of the Palestinians) in order to strengthen their sway, which is based on their military and economic strength alone.

Where the economic gap between a nation and its rulers grows, where the nation also has no part in electing the government, its sense of belonging diminishes and alienation increases. The resulting frustration is liable to endanger the ruler and so he requires an outside enemy to aid him by directing public rage outwards, thereby bolstering the sense of belonging and unity between ruler and nation. That’s how it is in the Palestinian Authority as well as in Syria...

External conflict is the breath of life for a dictatorship, not a problem that requires a solution. This is also the reason for the incitement and violence which the Palestinian Authority foments against Israel: incitement is a need and normalization is a problem.

The claims of some Leftists against Arafat -- that he erred in not accepting the Camp David accords and in waging war against us, as well as other steps which in hindsight seem totally illogical -- demonstrate an erroneous and dangerous idée fixe. Their perception, that Arafat’s strategy is to get what he believes he is entitled to and then make peace, seems so strong that it will persist even if the last Jew is thrown to the sea. Their dissonance stems from the fact that Arafat erred (tactically of course), not that they erred in estimating his true intentions...

With regard to the Geneva accords, the Palestinians themselves made clear, as did many analysts in Israel, that from Arafat’s perspective, the accords’ sole purpose was to divide Israeli society, certainly not to arrive at a binding arrangement.

Thus, in every attempt to arrive at an accomodation, Arafat will place his demands just one step beyond the position of the Israeli government even if the latter’s proposal gives away all of Israel except the suburbs of Tel Aviv. For those relentless pursuers of a peace agreement with Arafat, it will always be a mirage which recedes as one comes closer...