A Eulogy for Yasir Arafat
Author: Samuel Metz
Yasir Arafat struggled
relentlessly for an independent Palestinian state.
Yasir Arafat stifled every
opportunity to create an independent Palestinian state.
These are not
Look at his legacy. On a
planet of six billion people, he made the seemingly
insignificant plight of six million Palestinians a daily
headline. His was the only Palestinian voice heard outside
the villages of the Holy Land for the last half of the
twentieth century. For a community whose only previous
international spokesman was the infamous Mufti of
Jerusalem, Arafat was a godsend.
Arafat designated himself the
living embodiment of the Palestinian people. The struggle
for a Palestinian state was his lifeís sole purpose.
Cultivating his image with deliberate care by appearing in
military dress, he sported firearms and a trademark
battlefield growth of beard. He wore the Kaffiyah,
headdress of the Bedouin soldiers. And he defended his
self-appointed title of Palestinian savior against all
Yet he systemically destroyed
every opportunity to create a Palestinian state. The most
notable example: In January of 2001, then Prime Minister
of Israel Ehud Barak privately offered Palestinian
negotiators nearly everything they demanded for a
Palestinian state. Whether Barak could have convinced the
Israelis to support this proposal is questionable, but
this challenge never arose. Arafat claimed the rights of
Palestinians to return to homes within Israel were not
addressed. He rejected the proposal as unacceptable and
turned his back. End of negotiations.
Why did Arafat sabotage the
creation of the Palestinian state he claimed was his sole
goal? The answer appears rather sad: A Palestinian state
recognized by Israel, Arab nations, and the international
community would require a relatively uncorrupt government,
a security force that protected rather than endangered
citizens, working economic relations with Israel,
collegial diplomatic contacts with other Arab nations, and
establishment of schools, hospitals, roads, electricity,
water supply, and other infrastructure essential to any
nation. Arafat could never answer these needs. Arafat knew
that the first free post-sovereignty election in Palestine
would reveal credible and popular competitors. A
democratic Palestinian electorate would retire him in a
heartbeat. The establishment of a sovereign Palestinian
state would have, ironically, ended his career.
Arafat was no George
Washington: First in war, but not first in peace. Arafat
was not a Cincinnatus: At the end of the battle he could
never forsake his wartime leadership and allow more
skilled peacetime diplomats to continue his work. Arafat
was a warrior who never wanted the war to end.
Thus it is no surprise that
Arafat dedicated his life to the struggle for, but not the
achievement of, Palestinian independence. Instead he made
impossible both peace and justice for Palestinians. Now
the next generation of Palestinian leaders, free of
Arafatís inability to lead a peacetime government, must
walk the final mile and create the state.
Arafatís life made the
Palestinian state inevitable. His death makes it possible.