One or two states

Michael Tarazi, the American legal advisor to the PLO and Yasir Arafat, has written an op-ed article in the NY Times entitled “Two Peoples, One State.”  This article was highlighted in a column by Daniel Pipes, who pointed out that this is not a new idea, but a reversion to the older solution of the PLO, namely that only one state, namely Palestine, should exist as a democratic state in the area, and this requires the destruction of Israel as a Jewish State. Tarazi could not have written this article without official sanction from Yasir Arafat himself. In it he explicitly repudiates the currently favored concept of the Bush Administration of “two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace,” a concept that has been endorsed by PM Sharon.

Now what would prompt Tarazi/Arafat to publish such an article at this point in time? I think there are two reasons, first the Palestinians are getting very worried that if PM Sharon goes through with his unilateral Disengagement Plan from Gaza, this would leave Arafat to deal with the terrible mess/chaos in Gaza, which he is unable to do while detained in Ramallah and having lost credibility for not being able to prevent the break-down of law and order until now. So he is trying to change direction, and grab the initiative, instead of accepting the Bush package, laid out in the Road Map which the PA had already accepted, he is trying to find an alternative that can allow him to wiggle out of it. Given Arafat’s rejection of the Camp David accords, when he could have had a Palestinian State in Gaza, most of the West Bank and part of Jerusalem, it is clear that this was not his intention all along.

Instead he chose the violent route of the intifada to try to defeat Israel, but this has not succeeded. Although more than 1,000 Israelis have been killed and ca. 6,000 injured in the past four years, which Arafat expected would break Israel’s spirit, in fact this has not happened. Israelis are very resilient, life has continued almost as normal, and now that the IDF and security forces have found an effective combination of tactics to defeat the intifada, security is greatly improved in Israel.

This combination includes effective targeting of terrorist leaders, arrest of many suspects and obtaining intelligence information, building of the Security Fence, intercepting most suicide bombers, and incursions in force into PA territory to “clean out” selected areas when required.  All of these tactics have reduced the terrorist toll by 90% within Israel in a year. Not only has this resulted in an improvement in the Israeli economy and in tourism, but conversely the situation in the PA has greatly worsened.  Nearly 4,000 Palestinians have been killed and about 20,000 injured, they have lost their most important source of income, namely from working in Israel, the situation inside Gaza and the West Bank is chaotic with local gangs controlling the streets and killing anyone at will. And Israel’s free hand in northern Gaza right now only shows the impotence of the PA to do anything about it.

So Tarazi’s article is both a reversion to the policy before the establishment of the PA as a kind of proto-Palestine State, and an acknowledgement that Arafat’s current policies are not working. This was stated explicitly by former PA PM Abu Mazen in an interview published in the Jordanian paper al-Rai, that was re-printed in the J’sam Post this week. In it he states “the intifada in its entirety was a mistake,” and he explains that it has resulted in a strengthening of Sharon and a weakening of Arafat.

Meanwhile within Israel there has been a mini-scandal over the remarks of Dov Weisglas, the former Cabinet Secretary to PM Sharon, who stated in an interview that Sharon’s Disengagement Plan was a front for Sharon’s real intention of “freezing the peace process.” This mimics the opinions of many leftists in Israel and the Palestinians, who don’t trust Sharon at all.  But, coming from Weisglas this caused some consternation, and prompted both Sharon and Secty of State Powell to reiterate their support for the Road Map. Many think that Weisglas could not have expressed these views without some approval from Sharon, and it might have been an attempt to deflect the criticism of Sharon by his former right-wing allies, who are currently his main opposition.

In any case, as things get closer to an actual show down over the Disengagement, political maneuvering can be expected to increase. Tarazi’s article may be a harbinger of things to come, in which Arafat seeks to appeal to his left wing support in Europe and the US in order to bring about a unitary State, in which in time he expects the Palestinians to destroy Israel from within by using the “demographic bomb” instead of many “suicide bombs.”

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