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July 17, 2004
Palestinian Authority Losing Steam

In a move that looks deliciously like chickens coming home to roost, Islamists have begun a string of kidnapings in the Gaza Strip, forcing Yasser Arafat to sumbit to their demands and pushing the territory Israel plans to abandon towards anarchy:

Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian president, has rejected the resignation of the prime minister Ahmed Qurie, according to a cabinet minister. Mr Qurie submitted his resignation this morning after complaining of "unprecendented chaos" following series of kidnappings in the Gaza Strip. ...

Earlier, the Palestinian Authority declared a state of emergency in the Gaza Strip after four French aid workers captured on Friday were released by militants. The kidnappings are linked to demands for anti-corruption reforms from Arafat.

These reforms are similar to those the Egyptians demanded in return for continuing its guarantee of Arafat's life from Israeli attack. Egypt gave Arafat a deadline that quietly expired almost a month ago to agree to the changes and begin their implementation. Arafat finally agreed and started to make some minor changes in structure, breaking security down from eight organizations to three, although he put his nephew in charge of them, continuing his control in defiance of Egypt and the road-map Quartet.

As it turns out, events have forced Arafat's hand where an ailing Hosni Mubarak could not. After Arafat's security chief in Gaza was released by his captors, Arafat sacked him, apparently to meet the demands of the surprise insurgency in Gaza. Arafat's surrender may signal an inability to get on top of the security situation in Gaza, giving Hamas and Islamic Jihad the opening they need to seize control themselves at the head of a popular uprising and deliver the de facto terrorist state that both Israel and Egypt fear in Gaza. If that happens, Arafat's position in the West Bank will also become untenable and he may have to bug out without any encouragement from Israel or the US to abdicate.

Unfortunately, this scenario may well be the worst possible outcome for Israel. The elements of Palestinian society that could grab power quickly in the West Bank all come from the Islamist-terrorist organizations. Instead of the orderly transition from Arafat to the somewhat democratic Parliamentary system envisaged by the powers involved in the peace talks, an Iranian-style coup will take over Israel's eastern border and destabilize the entire area (even more than now). As these elements have consistently stated that peace will only come with Israel's destruction, a high probability exists that only a ground war in the West Bank will resolve the conflict.

As usual, Yasser Arafat blew it. He tried to play all sides against the middle, and instead has created a disastrous situation for himself and his people rather than negotiate in good faith to reach a final resolution of the West Bank/Gaza Strip status. Unless he can bring Gaza under control -- and very quickly, as anarchy tends to expand exponentially -- he's either an exile or a dead man, the first of many to come.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 17, 2004 9:43 AM

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» Gaza Goes Gaga from Watcher of Weasels
Last December, I made the following prediction: “I think that Yasser Arafat will finally kick the bucket next year...  but every potential replacement with even a semblance of sanity will be assassinated, and terrorists even worse than Arafa... [Read More]

Tracked on July 17, 2004 11:13 PM

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