Lots of stories are being filed on Yasser Arafat’s death. Of course, his passing strikes a blow for world peace. My storyline is simple and hopefully straightforward–the guy was a terrorist, a murderer, a kleptocrat, and a totalitarian. The UN, the international media, and the EU may have made him a symbol of Palestinian independence and statehood, but in fact he did more harm than good to his own people. He also may have stolen 4-5 billion dollars, which were contributed by Arab states like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran, and never reached ordinary Palestinians on the street. If it had reached ordinary folk, then per capita income on the West Bank would be among the Middle East’s highest, rather than lowest. I’m very impressed with his approximate 120 million dollar annual salary, which surely ranks as the highest in global CEOdom. And, so far as I know, this yearly total didn’t even include stock options.
Meanwhile, the New York Sun’ s Seth Lipsky is right: Mohammed Rashid must be found and interrogated as to where this stolen money is. Rumor has it that he is in France, which could grant him immunity, but the US Justice Department and Treasury Department, and perhaps other international organizations (don’t hold your breath for the UN), must depose this guy. That stolen money could be used to rebuild the Palestine area along with other international contributions. All of which could lead up to a democratically elected government, one that could negotiate with Sharon’s Israel.
President Bush was very strong in his news conference on pressing for free elections and a democratic Palestine. This is Bush’s article of faith for Afghanistan, Iraq, now Palestine, and hopefully someday for Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. But, there will be brutal infighting among the Palestinian Authority leadership. If there is a Palestinian pro-democracy liberal human rights partner for peace, then conceivably the death of Arafat could produce peace, but you can bet that Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Islamic Jihad terrorist groups that have really been running the PLA, and using a dying Arafat as their front man, will oppose a new, liberal democratic order. So will their ultimate bosses in Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. There may well be a clear al-Qaeda connection to Yasser’s entourage, as discussed by href=http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/mannes200411110933.asp>Aaron Mannes elsewhere on NRO. For these reasons, Daniel Pipes’s warning that a “hellish anarchy” inside Palestine could bode poorly for Israel should the US force some sort of unenforceable Israel-PLO settlement. The PLO has never terminated their right of return demand on Israel. This of
course is a code word for destroying Israel. So while there’s a peace opening in the wake of Arafat’s death, it is a long ways to a real solution.