Palestine after Arafat

Daily: Pakistan Observer
Date: 26.11.04
The decision of life and death is up to God; unless there is a will of God, no one can die.
Yasser Arafat was a staunch believer of this concept. That is why he lived his life
courageously while surviving more than fifty assassination attempts on his life (both from
his Arab/Palestinian rivals and Zionist opponents) as well as several accidents like plane

It was a far-reaching initiative of Arafat, an engineer by profession, to launch an indigenous
organization called Al-Fateh (the Conquest) in October 1959 for liberation of the Palestine
land confiscated by the unilateral foundation of Israel in 1948. Al-Fateh became core of the
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was founded in May 1964 in Egypt under
the auspices of the Arab League.

Arafat concluded from the untoward results of the war of 1967 that an outside factor
(military help of the neighbouring Arab countries) could not bestow on Palestinians a land
they once owned. Therefore, he relied on his Al-Fateh and brought "the first victory of the
Arabs against the state of Israel” in 1968 by giving a stiff resistance to the Israeli army at
Karameh, a Jordanian town east of the Jordan River where Al Fatah was operating its

Resultantly, Arafat became famous as a sole spokesman of the Palestine cause. Along with
him, kaffiyeh and Kalashnikov became known. That was a provision of a platform to seek
the right of self-determination around which thousands of volunteer Palestinian and Arab
youth started swarming. The same factor invited politico-economic assistance both overtly
and covertly for the cause from the neighbouring Arab countries and the remote Muslim
countries. Hence, an era of guerilla warfare ushered against oppressor, as Arafat said in
1969 that an "armed revolution in all parts of our Palestinian territory" in order "to make of it
a war of liberation" against Israel. Arafat also became President of PLO (1969-2004).  

From his experience, he learnt that he could not get any thing on behalf of the Palestinians
unless he had kept an olive branch in the one hand while a gun in the other, as he uttered
in the UN General Assembly speech in 1974. The open offer of such a choice to Israel
primarily and the USA and the UK indirectly was unprecedented. That was how his boldness
brought in the possibility of existence of an independent Palestine state — though small it
would be — side by side the mighty Israel. That is what the concept of ‘two state solution’ of
the Middle East problem instead of one state (Zionist). In fact, the pendulum of his career of
struggle used to swing between offering an olive branch at one time and an action with a
gun at another.  

The period of November 1977 to March 1979 was the beginning of the first formal phase of
reconciliation in the Middle East when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visited and
recognized Israel and subsequently signed a peace treaty. Resultantly, Arafat stood in
isolation in the region. Subsequently, his PLO also experienced Lebanon massacre in 1982.

The year of 1987 was a commencement of a next phase of attrition in Palestine, as there
emerged the first wave of Palestine Intifada, a radical militant uprising independent of
control of Arafat. Before events could go out of control, in November 1988, Arafat
renounced terrorism and recognized Israel. Hence, an inauguration of the second phase of
reconciliation following which came the Oslo Accord of 1993, which comprised ‘land for
peace’ formula. That is how; Mr. Arafat passed through the phase of defiance of Israel
(1959-1988) and entered in the ambit of its peace-partner. Consequently, he became a co-
winner of a Noble Peace Prize in 1994.

His minimum compromised formula consisted of two main points. First, an independent state
of Palestine comprising pre-1967 areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East
Jerusalem as its capital (only about 22% of historic Palestine). Secondly, there should be a
right of the Palestinian refugees of pre-1948 era to come back or monetarily compensated
if not given a place in today’s Israel. Generally, in this context, Arafat faced problems in
three main areas: East Jerusalem as capital, repatriation of the Palestinian refugees, and
the nature of independence of the Palestine state. These problems now descend to the
next generation of the Palestine leaders to tackle.

The Oslo Accord also threw Arafat in the sea of criticism. On the Palestinian/Arab side, he
was alleged to have sold out the cause, while on the Israeli side it was demanded of him to
subdue the militant groups like Hamas, Hezbullah, and Islamic Jehad. The latter point was
also reinforced in Wye River Accord of 1998. Then came the second wave of Palestine
Intifada in September 2000. Owing to his failure in the sight of Israel and US as President of
the Palestinian Authority (established in the wake of 1996 elections), he was secluded and
confined for almost three years in his Ramallah compound (where he is buried now).

With his departure, there has been surfaced a new situation. Now, Hamas exists as a next
reality — a pre-requisite for “an opening for peace”. It is considered a replica of 1970’s
PLO. Its daring actions against Israeli’s have compelled other right-wing radical groups
including now Al-Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade to rally around it. For Israel and its
supporters, journey of pacification from Egypt to Arafat’s PLO has now entered into a
phase where there is a need of a third reconciliation but this time with Hamas. As Egypt and
PLO did, Hamas also denounces Israel’s existence. Secondly, as Egypt remained abortive
to control activities of PLO, the latter also failed to curb Hamas. Thirdly, before entering into
a peace treaty of coexistence with Israel, both Egypt and PLO confronted directly with
Israel. Hamas is standing next in the queue refuting the thought of void. It is still to be seen
what kind of a peace treaty will Hamas agree upon and how?

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