Israel: December 7, 2001

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Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinians for over 30 years, is in big trouble. Not only do the majority of Palestinians support his rivals, the radicals (who use suicide bombers), but the majority of Israelis (in a recent opinion poll) no longer see him as the Palestinian they should deal with to work out a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel held off attacks on Palestinian targets for 48 hours so that Arafat could round up terrorists that Israel had long urged Arafat to arrest. Arafat did make some attempts to comply, but not to the satisfaction of the Israelis, so the air and ground attacks have resumed. Attacks have been made on Palestinian police and security force buildings. Israel ground forces are occupying Palestinian territory thought to be used by terrorists for staging attacks. Arafat risks civil war among the Palestinians if he does go after the radicals. Arafat would probably win, but he would then have a very angry opposition and would again, as he did in his early days, face assassination attempts. The radicals are determined to destroy Israel, something Arafat knows is pretty much impossible. But the radicals feel that if they can ratchet up the violence up enough, they could start a larger war against Israel. Again, unlikely, but that's why they call them folks radicals. 

If Arafat were to be replaced as leader of the Palestinian Authority, it would probably be with a more radical personality. But the "Israel must be destroyed" radicals will still be there, and peace just as far away. But a more radical leader of the Palestinian Authority might be willing to take on the radicals and decide once and for all who really represents the Palestinians. At the moment, Arafat doesn't.

 

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