- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2000

Yasser Arafat will spend his lifetime as a terrorist. He did not opt for the role of statesman. He called for an unending intifada, which guarantees another catastrophe for the Palestinian people.

Nelson Mandela and Menachem Begin chose the role of statesman, and put their guerrilla pasts behind them. Mr. Arafat has chosen liberation by blood and violence and has abandoned diplomacy. Why? He is predictably unpredictable, preferring drama and catastrophe as a stage, with himself at the center. He has chosen three international institutions from which to operate: the United Nations, CNN and the Arab League.

Mr. Arafat is notoriously absent from his Palestinian constituency during the most severe crises. He has traveled from Majorca to Cairo, back to Paris and elsewhere over the past month but not to Palestine. He prefers the international arena to Gaza.

Mr. Arafat's three institutions of choice are predictable. The United Nations General Assembly is occupied by a coalition of kleptocrats, dictators, presidents for life, Arab ethnic cleansers (Saddam Hussein and Hafez Assad), and African ethnic cleansers (Rwanda, Congo and Sierra Leone). With the help of the above, Mr. Arafat has succeeded over the past 20 years in producing endless resolutions, the most notorious of them "Zionism is Racism," with little or no impact on Israel.

CNN has become his media instrument. In fact some so-called CNN reporters, who masquerade as journalists, are purveyors of Palestinian propaganda. One example is CNN correspondent Rula Amin, who has touted Palestinian propaganda rather than news. With no evidence, she reported the false Palestinian argument that the two Israelis who were lynched in Ramallah were Mossad agents. This is pernicious nonsense that appears to have gone unchecked by CNN offices in Atlanta or New York. The chief Palestinian propagandist and dissembler, Hanan Ashrawi, appears daily on CNN.

The Arab League has been the central instrument for legitimization of Palestinian nationalism. From the 1964 Alexandria Arab Summit that formally approved the establishment of the PLO to the 1974 Rabat Summit that affirmed the right of the Palestinians to the whole of Palestine, to the Casablanca Conferences in 1989, which "strongly supported the Palestinian claims," to the last Cairo Summit in October 2000, which has injudiciously taken the side of the Palestinians in the struggle.

Mr. Arafat's style is to operate within the three institutions described above rather than facing the grim fact that at best he will be an insignificant head of a failed, corrupt state that has been torn asunder between various security, military and opposition forces.

Mr. Arafat's negotiating tactics are long, arduous, nerve-racking and bizarre, going back and forth between making promises and breaking them sometimes all in one day. The recent charade at the American Embassy in Paris where Mr. Arafat put his initials on terms for ending the violence, and then refused to sign, is a good example. Just when he was to sign the agreement, he instead walked out with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in pursuit and calling guards to close the embassy gates.

A more egregious example is the signing of the 1994 Cairo agreement to buttress Oslo. After agreeing with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, witnessed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and President Clinton, to the terms of the Cairo agreement, when it came to the official signing witnessed by international media, Mr. Arafat created a scene by walking out. President Mubarak was fuming and was overheard by journalists admonishing Mr. Arafat: "Ya kalb [you dog], come back." Behind the curtains, Mr. Mubarek said, "If you are going to continue such exercises with me, your foot will not walk on Egyptian soil forever. I warn you." He literally forced Mr. Arafat to come back and sign the agreement. Mr. Arafat interpreted this as a victory. This is Mr. Arafat's predictable unpredictability.

As soon as he signed the Oslo agreement in September 1993, Mr. Arafat went to South Africa, called for a jihad (holy war) and the establishment of a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem. A profile prepared by Israeli intelligence services reached the conclusion that Mr. Arafat tends toward paranoia, does not listen to his advisers, and is swept into ridiculous statements, such as complaining to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Israeli Air Force intentionally flew around his private residence to disturb his noon siesta. The Israelis who listened did not know whether to laugh or cry.

In a Stalinist way, Mr. Arafat encourages a personality cult to ensure that no rival can seriously challenge him. He shuffles his advisers and Cabinet members like cards. He personally supervises the Palestinian press to make sure his portrait is on the first page. Anyone else's is removed to back pages.

What should be concluded about Mr. Arafat? He is not a man of peace or diplomacy. He is guerrilla, terrorist, warrior and will continue to be so. He will poison the waters of the Middle East with a permanent intifada so he does not have to face the reality of being mentioned on page 17 of the international press. He is sacrificing his people to his whims, dramas and catastrophes.

Mr. Arafat is the partner of no one. It took seven years for the deluded Israelis to realize they could not make a deal with him. He deceived them, manipulated their desire for peace and betrayed his "friend," Mr. Clinton, who put so much political capital into someone who is essentially a terrorist.

Amos Perlmutter is a professor of political science and sociology at American University and editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies.

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