Anyone who thought that the demise of Yasser Arafat would pave the way towards a more moderate Palestinian leadership would do well to listen to what the Palestinians themselves are saying (rather than the overly-optimistic pundits).
Indeed, in recent days, virtually all of the candidates aiming to replace the late Palestinian leader have been outdoing each other to sound more extreme than the next. Take, for example, Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen), who told the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah yesterday:
“We will not rest until the right of our people to return is granted and the tragedy of the refugees comes to an end… We shall act to realize his [Arafat’s] dream to achieve an independent state that has already been promised by international law, with its capital in Jerusalem.”
Similarly, at the same session of the Council, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei (a.k.a. Abu Ala) said:
"We will follow in the path of the late leader Yasser Arafat, and we will work toward fulfilling his dream. We promise you that our hearts will not rest until the right of return for our people is achieved and the tragedy of the refugees is ended."
Now, as just about everyone knows, Arafat’s “dream” is effectively Israel’s nightmare. When Abu Mazen and Abu Ala call for the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, this is the equivalent of calling for Israel’s destruction, because it would mean flooding the tiny Jewish state with millions of hostile Palestinians.
Then there is Farouk Kaddumi, who was recently appointed secretary-general of Arafat’s Fatah faction of the PLO. Speaking at a memorial service Tuesday in Beirut for Arafat, Kaddumi was even more explicit: "We cannot achieve goals except through continued resistance by all methods and means," he said. After nearly four years of ongoing Palestinian terror, we know precisely what it is that Mr. Kaddumi has in mind.
Even Ghassan Barham, a Palestinian Christian lawyer from the Jenin area who has also declared his candidacy to replace Arafat, has been seeking to boost his popularity among the Palestinian electorate by justifying the murder of Israelis. Asked by a reporter for his opinion of Palestinian suicide attacks, Barham refused to classify them as a form of terrorism, instead asserting that, “These attacks are carried out in revenge for Israeli aggression”.
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that these are the kind of people that are often labeled Palestinian moderates. After all, in his remarks yesterday at the Palestinian Council, Abu Mazen declared that Arafat himself was a “moderate”, if you can believe that one.
As far as I’m concerned, what all this goes to show is that the problem in our region has not been one of a particular personality (i.e. Arafat), but of the very existence of the Palestinian Authority, which has time and again shown itself to be a terrorist entity run by a merciless collection of thugs.
The fact is that no matter who the Godfather is that’s in charge, the Mafia still remains the Mafia, with all that entails.