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

November 28, 2002

I am often inclined to think that, to a certain extent, nations get the leaders they deserve. Also, in more than few instances, the leader is really an embodiment of the “national character”, i.e. of that nation’s culture, it’s “collective psyche”. Naturally, this mostly applies to nations where the people have at least some say in choosing their leaders.

The Palestinians chose their leader themselves. No, I did not take Jimmy Carter seriously, when he wrote in the NYT some time ago that those elections were clean and fair. And I realize that there may have not been any serious competition. Yes, Clinton, Rabin and the EU are at fault, too. But the bottom line is that the Palestinians were given a chance at democracy, and they blew it by overwhelmingly electing Arafat. And this is a classic case of a people who deserve their leader, because he is the embodiment of what they are at their worst.

Now, if Arafat were kicked out, it would be very satisfying on an emotional level, to very many people. It would be even more satisfying if he was killed. But as a practical matter it is not going to do much good, and can even do some harm. (If he is kicked out, he will start touring the world again, regain legitimacy, raise money, and we will see him in the media much more often than I can bear. If he is killed, he will become a martyr, and we will not be able to kick him out, not to mention kill him again, and he will be all over our TV’s for a long time.)

Steve DB says that if Arafat were gone, “that would be one of the best things that could ever happen to the Palestinians”. It is true, but only if Palestinians themselves do it. They don’t need to kill him, just kick him out. Of course, I don’t see this happening any time soon. It would take for them to change their “national character”, their culture, their “collective psyche”. Absent some major traumatic event, it is not very likely to happen.

Now this might not make any sense, but I have the feeling that the Palestinians are running out of time. As long as Arafat is alive, they can kick him out – both literally (out of the country) and metaphorically (by changing their entire outlook on themselves, the world around them, on life, and on death). Once he is dead, even a natural death (and it will happen – he is not getting any younger) it will be so much more difficult, if not impossible for them to do. Steve says that they are digging their own grave, and I think that they are likely to share it with their chosen leader.

(Crossposted here).