Friday, November 19, 2004

Israel, Palestine and Yasser Arafat - Part II

posted by ShyK at 18:45

Yasser Arafat was born Muhammad Abd al-Rahman ar-Rauf al-Qudwah al-Husayni, was born in Cairo on August 24, 1929 In 1957 he, with a group of refugees from Gaza helped found Fatah which later morphed into Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964.

The Palestine Liberation Army was created as the regular military arm of the PLO in the late 60's. Surprisingly the first war that it fought was NOT against Israel but against Jordan - a fellow Arab country - 1970. When the Jordanian troops gained dominance, Arafat and the PLO relocated to Lebanon. In 1974 Arafat ordered the PLO to stop acts of violence outside Israel and Israel occupied territories. In the same year he addressed a plenary session of the UN General Assembly, proposing a peaceful solution. That could be said to be the end of Arafat the militant and the birth of Arafat the diplomat.

In 1974, Arab states declared the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of all Palestinians. In September 1982, Arafat and his leadership moved to Tunisia. For most of this period Arafat continued to be the primary (if not only) leader of the Palestine movement.

The Dec 1987 spontaneous uprising backed by the entire Palestinian population living under Israeli occupation caught both Israel and the PLO by surprise and was perhaps the first threat to Arafat's position as the sole symbol of Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation.

In the last decade of his life, Arafat received considerable and consistent criticism from Palestinians frustrated by the inevitable disappointments and injustices of the Oslo Accords. Arafat's backing of Saddam Hussein following the Iraqi Army's occupation of Kuwait in 1990 caused further grief to his supporters. Although the last two years of Arafat's life were profoundly bleak and lonely, spent under house-arrest in the company of loyal courtiers in his bombed-out and isolated muqata`a headquarters in Ramallah, he had known many moments of triumph and glory in his long and varied political career.

While there are some who believe that his death could be a turning point for peace if the Palestinians "ceased terrorism" and waged a "war on terror" - most (me inclusive) believe that .Some say Arafat's death will not change any of the essential underpinnings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Arafat's foremost success was keeping the cause of Palestinian statehood alive and on the international agenda so that it became endorsed by the entire international community. But Arafat's detractors claim that though he admittedly brought the Palestinians within sight of the promised land of statehood, he leaves behind a West Bank and Gaza Strip in shambles. Future Palestinian leaders are likely to be challenged by rampant Palestinian lawlessness, and a power vacuum that resulted because Arafat did not groom a successor or develop strong, independent institutions.

The mud-slinging for deciding the successor has already started. Many believe that Marwan Barghouti is the only Palestinian leader with enough popularity to inherit Arafat’s mantle. OTOH The PLO officials claim that Yasser Arafat has issued a political last will in which he appoints head of the PLO politburo Farouk Kadoumi as his successor.

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