In charging the PFLP of all the responsibility as regards the current Israeli escalation and outlawing it, Arafat likely thinks that it would be enough to placate Sharon and to make him more thoughtful as to the consequences of his acts. But this is not as simple as he believes.
The Israeli Premier is an impulsive; this is a matter of character. Yet he is not a perfect fool! He knows that the world media are currently focusing on the war in Afghanistan, that everybody in the West is haunted by the dreadful terrorist network which is said to have agents and supports almost everywhere in Europe and America, etc! He knows that a real psychosis is gripping the West, that the Arabs and the Muslims living in these countries clutched by paranoia have never been so ill treated than they might be right now in some places. Every one of them is a suspect, no matter his origin or his status. When would the implacable Sharon find again such a golden opportunity to lead the punishment attack against the Palestinians he was promising since he was elected? For him, this is just the time to strike.
Let Bush and Blair talk about the future Palestinian State as they wish! It doesn’t matter. Sharon has some cards to play, and the first of these cards is about terrorism, precisely! Isn’t this the time to fight against that scourge? Well! That’s just what his army is doing in the Palestinian territory! Hunting down the terrorists who shot his tourism Minister, as Arafat is unable to find them, maybe – or most certainly – because he is one of them! That is exactly what Sharon has always said. Arafat is a “pathological liar” and the ” head of a terrorist gang”!
However, despite the appearances, Sharon might be able to think for himself sometimes. In these days, he could have some thoughts crossing his mind. Here is a sample (: just forgive his frequent use of the third singular pronoun to talk of himself):
“Who would oppose me among the Western leaders? Bush? Come on! This is a childish thinking! Has anybody read the American – quite official – reports about terrorism? Has any reader found any important difference between the Israeli and the American analyses of terrorism? Why the fuss about Sharon’s deadly “achievements”? All the World knows that when Israel strikes and kills Palestinian leaders, this is fairly called “legitimate defense” – and lately ” targeted operations”! -, and when the Palestinians do the same thing vis-a-vis the Israelis, this is called terrorism! And though America, Britain, France, Germany, and all the Western countries condemned my policy of ‘targeted things’, they actually did nothing, absolutely nothing to stop it. When Arafat asked for international monitors to give what he calls some credibility to the cease-fire before the implementation of the Mitchell report’s directives, the Bush administration just told him: No, no, and no! We won’t anger our ally Sharon! Remember?
Given the fact that I never hid my intentions to handle the crisis according to my feelings, that American weakness was equal to telling me: Go on! Do as you like! And that was exactly what I did… What I am still doing!
Now, you can still say: Mr. Bush has promised! And Mr. Blair did the same! Indeed!
But for us, the American and the British pledges about the Palestinian State, in this very moment, have been made just in order to gain time and support from the Muslims for the campaign against the Taliban. They are nothing but a deviation on the road. Our allies will join us later, I am sure, when they understand that we are actually fighting against a single foe with many faces. Whether you call him bin Laden, or Saddam, or the Islamists, or the Arabs, or Hamas, or Arafat, or the Crown Prince Abdullah, or the PFLP- that’s just what Arafat did to make himself credible to “us”! – or the Taliban, or the Durban conference, or Satan himself … there is no disagreement whatever between us that we are talking about the same enemy!”
Now, who is going to persuade Sharon, not of the contrary of this view, – the Arabs are not asking for so much – but just of the little, yet important differences that exist indeed between him and the rest of the Westerners who want really to reach peace?
Hichem Karoui is a writer and journalist living in Paris, France.