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June 02, 2003

Make no mistake, Arafat will try to derail this peace process. He has absolutely no incentive to see his prime minister succeed

Sideline Arafat, Boost Abbas

The words in the headline are those of Fareed Zakaria, whose recent book,is highly regarded. He has in his work distinguished between democracies one person, one vote, one time, ie Nazi Germany, and liberal democracies--checks and balences and frequent elections. He notes what many of long suspected, though not those mapping the Road
[...] The most important person who will not be at any of the meetings this week is, of course, Arafat. And make no mistake, Arafat will try to derail this peace process. He has absolutely no incentive to see Abu Mazen succeed. He will try to keep his fingers in the operations of the Palestinian Authority, in particular in controlling the security forces. The day that Arafat swore Abu Mazen into office, he set up a new national-security council, with himself as chairman, controlling all matters related to law and order. He will thwart the efforts to crack down on terror. He might even encourage some groups to engage in low-level terror. The message Arafat will try to send the world is “Abu Mazen is a nice guy but he can’t deliver. If you want to deal with the Palestinians, you have to deal with Arafat.”

The only path to peace is one that sidelines Arafat. It would be best not to do so publicly, which would only brand him as the leader who defies the Israelis and Americans. Better to ignore him but systematically weaken his power. The summit will be a good start. Its principal effect will be to elevate Abu Mazen, who will be seen throughout the world—in the company of George W. Bush, Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah and others—as the leader of the Palestinian people. If the Arab leaders in particular treat him with honor and give him material support, it will translate into stature back home. Much of Arafat’s domestic legitimacy stemmed from the fact that he represented the Palestinian cause in the world. That’s why he spent so much time flying to foreign capitals, reviewing honor guards and embracing presidents and prime ministers. And that is why it is deeply destructive to the peace process for European leaders to continue to accord him respect and attention. A senior White House official told me that the Bush administration has asked every foreign leader who visits Israel—including the French—to stop meeting with Arafat.[more]