"Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby," although written by Louis Jordan in 1944, is the song that Ariel Sharon ought to be singing, with a chorus in the background led by President George Bush. The "baby" they should be singing about is Yasser Arafat and the answer should be "no."
Let's forget all the nonsense about Arafat being a "partner in peace" and acknowledge that, in the real world, he is a terrorist and murderer. Although he did not personally pull the triggers or detonate the bombs, under any civilized system of justice he would be found as equally culpable as those that did. This elementary proposition is a "no brainer" even to a first-year law student who would know that a person who encourages the crime, supplies the weapon, pays the money and gives the order is as guilty as the person who does the act itself. Maybe even more so, because he is a coward and sends others, who often get killed in the process, to commit the crime, while he himself cavorts in safety as the leader of his people -- although his mandate as an elected leader expired years ago. Putting all of this aside, the real question is, if real progress is to be made, is Arafat the person with whom the heads of state, particularly, Mr. Ariel Sharon, should be dealing?
That Arafat is the leading and most visible of the terrorists who attacked Israel is beyond question. Sharon himself gave President Bush a hundred-page report outlining Arafat's role in recent and past terrorist outrages. Arafat's role is clear, but Sharon declares him to be "irrelevant." Therein lay the dilemma: How could Arafat be the causative factor and, at the same time, "irrelevant"? The fact is, however, that in the complexities of the Middle East both things are simultaneously possible. But while both situations exist concurrently, there can only be one solution. Is Arafat to go or stay? Happily the Palestinians themselves have made Sharon's and, more importantly, President Bush's paths clearer ones.
Polls have become crutches for politicians. Roosevelt was the first American President to avail himself of modern polling methods, and he acted in accordance with the national sentiment that opposed the U.S. becoming involved in Europe's war. Therefore, while Europe burned, Hitler gobbled up whole countries and Jews were murdered, he waited and incrementally steered the country toward the inevitable war. Clinton carried it one step further. In the morning, he would put his finger out the window and, to mix a metaphor, see how the polls were blowing, and make that the policy du jour. But one thing we have learned. Give or take a few elections, the polls are almost always correct.
The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, the only Palestinian independent polling organization, has conducted polls with unexpected results. The Palestinians were filled with hope for the success of the Camp David meetings in July 2000, giving Arafat at the time a 46 percent approval rating. Then Arafat turned his back on a settlement that would have returned to his people 97 percent of the occupied territories in Gaza and the West Bank. In October 2000, Arafat began his terror campaign against Israel, and by December 2000 his popularity was down to 36 percent. In the most recent poll, about a week old, his popularity stands at 35 percent.
History is replete with examples showing that most any wartime leader -- from Churchill to Hitler -- enjoys astronomical support from his people, unless the war is, or is about to be, lost. This all makes the handwriting on the wall clear as far as Arafat is concerned, and the writing says he must go.
His removal perhaps would not be unwelcome by his fellow Arab leaders, who no doubt remember that he backed Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. If we had not intervened, the Saudi prince probably would not have been around to lecture President Bush during his visit to the Crawford ranch last month, since he most likely would have been otherwise occupied enjoying a view of his palace while hanging from a tree. Arafat also attacked the governments of Jordan and Lebanon, which led to the Palestinians' expulsion from those countries. Arafat also lied when he signed the Oslo accords promising to stop terrorism. The Palestinians have a history, going back to 1947, when they refused the U.N. partition plan, of making poor choices. Now the majority seem to be acting more wisely in their growing disenchantment with Arafat.
Sharon, having made one mistake by not going in with guns blazing as we did in Afghanistan, should not believe that history allows for the same mistake twice.
The American President happily seems to be going the way of assigning Arafat to history's dustbin. Sharon should not let the moment slip by. Perhaps he should even give the hour hand of history's clock a little nudge.
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