Lifestyles Left and Right

Yassir, That’s My Baby

A farewell letter to an over-the-hill gangster.

5.20.02

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You've done it again. By agreeing to hold elections within six months, along with a consolidation of your eight Byzantine security forces into one, then stipulating that all of this will take place only after a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, you've bamboozled the world again. Or have you?

For years you have kept those around you off balance by giving each a bit of information and responsibility, but giving no one enough of either to challenge -- or question -- you. You have kept the "International Community" off balance by denouncing terrorism now and then by persuading the outside world that you are indispensable to the "peace process"; that without you, there would be chaos among the Palestinian Arabs.

As for some of your Arab neighbors, you have spent years cultivating the notion that their paying you large sums of money would keep your "refugees" in their midst under control and that West Bank and Gaza zealots would ultimately break the morale of the Israeli people. The ultimate goal, following establishment of a Palestinian state: driving the Israelis into the sea.

You have never had to make a commitment that could lead to an even-handed settlement. Had you done so, you would then have had to become a leader, overseeing the management of a new country whose citizens -- like most people elsewhere -- want to get on with their lives with decent jobs, homes, schools for their kids and, most of all, peace and quiet.

But you are neither temperamentally equipped nor experienced in leadership or management. All you know is conflict and histrionics. So, you have put them to work again. But, Yassir, baby, it's not going to work this time.

The Israelis were always on to your game. Bush is, too. The Europeans are catching on. Even your "moderate" Arab neighbors are tiring of it. Bloodshed is getting your "cause" nowhere.

Do you think it was an accident last week that former members of your cabinet were all over the airwaves talking about the corruption in your cabinet? Was it an accident that pressure built from inside as well as outside for elections, both presidential and legislative; for the appointment of a prime minister to do the daily work of managing the Palestinian Authority?

What is happening is that virtually everyone has tacitly agreed that it is time to ease you upstairs where you can claim credit for reforms about which you did nothing, and preside at ribbon-cuttings for the new schools and public health clinics you should have been building during the last eight years instead of dishing foreign aid out to your cronies.

Money has always talked for you. The Europeans dumped a lot more of it into your lap than the U.S. did, and the Saudis gave you even more (to keep you out of their hair). You may try to put an impossible-to-achieve stipulation on the reforms, but when the Europeans and the Saudis quietly tell you to get with the program if you want any more money, you'll listen -- carefully.

You're old. Your hands shake all the time and you could barely do your recent walk-about in Jenin without a sturdy man on either side to prop you up. So it's time to recognize reality when it stares you in the face. Enjoy "upstairs." Take all the credit you want; cut all the ribbons you want.

There is an alternative. There's a nice little island down in the South Atlantic, St. Helena, which hasn't had a famous visitor since Napoleon died there in 1821. It is peaceful and quiet and you could rant to the birds and the sky there to your heart's content.

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