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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

November 29, 2002

Arafat as Sharon's best campaign manager?

Sounds ludicrous, I know.

But, according to strategic consultant Kalman Gayer (as reported in Ha'aretz), Yasser Arafat wanted a Likud Prime Minister to win in 2001, and wants one to win again in 2002:
On the eve of the 2001 elections, strategic consultant Kalman Gayer reached the conclusion that "Arafat prefers a leader from the Likud and not from Labor to head the Israeli government." His analysis was based on three strategically important events that occurred in swift succession:
In May 2000 the Barak government decided on a unilateral pullout from southern Lebanon; two months later, the Camp David summit was held, and failed; and two months after that, on September 29, the intifada began.

Arafat reached the conclusion that he would achieve his political goals by means of terrorism, Gayer wrote. The escalation in terrorism and the suicide bombing attacks worked in Sharon's favor.
When you think about it, it makes a strange kind of sense. Arafat was getting too close to the point where he would have to either accept a peace deal, or turn down something eminently reasonable. The next step at Camp David in 2000 with Ehud Barak was going to necessitate a willingness on Arafat's part to make some concessions and to accept the premise of statehood in exchange for peace. But he couldn't do it. He was too much of a coward, and he realized that his people were not ready to accept it. Things were moving too fast, and Arafat saw them spinning out of control - if he signed a peace treaty he'd be an international hero but a traitor in the Muslim world, and that wasn't the legacy he wanted. Hence the strategic decision to put a grinding halt to the peace process and start a wave of terror and violence that has cost far too many hundreds of lives so far.

But Arafat also knew that, faced with an Israeli leadership willing to make major concessions for peace, the Palestinian side would look bad for turning down these concessions. He needed a scapegoat. He needed an Israeli leader he could villanize. Someone who he could blame for all of the violence, and who the international community would readily see as a hard-line extremist. He needed a Likud Prime Minister. Preferably one with as hard-line a reputation as possible.

Ariel Sharon has been Arafat's dream come true.

So why, then, is he still so popular amongst Israelis? Why did they just vote him back in as leader of the Likud party (effectively giving him another mandate as Prime Minister)? Why, when everything in Israel is a disaster is Sharon enjoying unprecedented popularity?

This is what the Ha'aretz article attempts to explain. It's an interesting read. Check it out.

(Cross-posted at segacs's world i know).

Contributed by Sari S.