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In what could present the best opportunity to finally achieve real progress towards peace in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Parliament took an unprecedented step towards independence. The Washington Post and AP report that the assembly demanded that Yasser Arafat accept Ahmed Qureia's resignation and form a cabinet that can address the deteriorating security situation in Gaza:
The Palestinian parliament passed a resolution Wednesday calling on Yasser Arafat to accept the resignations of his prime minister and Cabinet, stepping up pressure on the Palestinian leader to relinquish some of his power. In a rare show of independence, the legislature asked Arafat to form a new Cabinet better equipped to handle the internal unrest after a week of turmoil in the Gaza Strip. ...
Rauhi Fattouh, speaker of the Legislative Council, said the legislature will hold an emergency session Thursday to decide on further action. Lawmakers are considering a monthlong strike or weeklong sit-in to protest Arafat's refusal to grant more authority to the Cabinet and parliament.
"Every one of us is responsible" for failing to deal with the security crisis in Gaza and the instability of the Palestinian government, Cabinet minister and lawmaker Qadoura Fares said. "Arafat is the most responsible for the failure. President Arafat failed and the Palestinian government failed, the Palestinian political factions failed," he told The Associated Press.
Arafat has played the intifada out to the end of its string, and the Israeli wall has checkmated him and his murderous strategy to push the Jews into the Mediterranean. In the end, the Israelis outlasted Arafat's bombthrowing, and now the Palestinians have begun acting out the end game of all dictatorships when their populace no longer has an external target for their rage -- the anger that a totalitarian regime creates eventually doubles back on itself and snuffs out the regime itself.
Now, all Arafat can control will be the method of his exit from power in the Palestinian Authority. Will he take this opportunity to transfer real authority to a cabinet that has little or no subservience to Arafat? Or will he, instead, attempt to stuff more of his family members into positions of power and set off another round of violence, taking his people and his proto-state down in flames, like Wotan in Valhalla?
My guess is that Arafat tries having it both ways, appointing a new cabinet without actually transferring real power (the security apparatus) to their control. If that's what he tries, expect to see Arafat replaced by force within weeks or even days of the attempt. The civil war that follows will determine the fate of the West Bank: haven for radical Islamists, or a second Arab democracy. In effect, the Israelis have nothing to lose, as the latter would almost certainly allow for reasonable negotiations on a final settlement, and the former would be exactly what they have now.
UPDATE: The New York Times adds its own reporting on the rare show of assertiveness from the Palestinian parliament:
The lawmakers voted 43 to 4 for a nonbinding measure that also called on Mr. Arafat to form a new government that would have greater control over the security forces and the authority to introduce political reforms and combat corruption. ...
The Palestinian parliament is one of the livelier legislatures in the Arab world, a region where lawmakers rarely challenge national leaders. Still, it is unusual for legislators to take a position directly opposed to Mr. Arafat, who has refused to accept the resignation by the prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, on Saturday.
It's unusual for Palestinian lawmakers to do anything significant that doesn't amount to a rubber stamp for Arafat, "lively" or not. Someone needs to report Greg Myre to the PC Police at the NYU J-school.Sphere It View blog reactions
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