(On Screen): As Israel continues to build its security fence along the border of the West Bank, there is rising nervousness approaching panic among the Palestinians and their Arab supporters elsewhere. They hate the idea of the fence, and there's a good reason why.
They do not have the ability to prevent Israel from completing it, which means that the only way to prevent it from being finished is either to offer Israel positive incentives to quit, or to get outsiders to pressure the Israelis to quit. And when it comes to "outsiders", the list of those whose opinions about the wall the Israelis would actually care about only has one entry: the United States.
Arafat in particular is in deep trouble. Of course, Arafat is a legendary survivor, whose defeat and destruction have been predicted or declared many times (including by me). But this time it's far worse, and I don't seen any escape for him.
His fortunes have been in decline for a long time, and he's reaching the breaking point. But he's still gamely struggling. The Palestinians still can find sympathetic ears in Europe among the press and even some government leaders, and so he recently gave an interview to The Guardian.
The Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, has declared that "time is running out for the two-state solution" to the Middle East conflict - in an exclusive interview with the Guardian - because of the impact of Israel's "security barrier" and settlement expansion on the viability of a future Palestinian state.
The unprecedented warning from a man who has devoted the past 30 years to achieving a state in the West Bank and Gaza next to Israel came as momentum builds in Ariel Sharon's embattled government for a "unilateral disengagement" from the most heavily populated Palestinian areas.
Long-time Arafat watchers will not be surprised by the fact that they managed to include two really big lies in just the first two paragraphs. Arafat's willingness to lie has always been his biggest asset.
In the morning of September 11, 2001, when it first became clear that the crashes were deliberate, some immediately became suspicious that Palestinians were behind the attack. That was mostly because they didn't know very much about the political theory of terrorism as a tactic of war, but did know that Palestinians were behind nearly every terrorist attack they saw in recent news reports (as well as such notorious events as the Black September assault on the Munich Olympics).
But at the time the Palestinians were still running their campaign against Israel at least somewhat by the book. And since the goal was political victory, not mindless slaughter, the last thing the Palestinians wanted to see was a major terrorist attack against the US committed by Arabs, whether Palestinian or not. Which is why all the Palestinian terrorist groups immediately denounced the attack and disclaimed any responsibility. And film of Arafat that day made clear that he was distinctly shaken. He just plain looked terrified.
Rightly so; it's been downhill for the Palestinians ever since. In a real sense, the high-water mark for the Palestinian cause was September 10, 2001.
The Palestinian problem has been a tumor in the middle-east for decades, one which corrupt and incompetent leaders of other Arab nations have used to distract their own people. Israel made a convenient enemy and scapegoat. The Arabs even tried several times to invade Israel but were beaten every time (though not necessarily as easily as some might think). The last attempt was in 1973, after which two things happened which changed the situation forever: America bought off the Egyptians and Jordanians, and Israel developed a nuclear arsenal. Thereafter there was no chance at all of destroying Israel by direct military operations, and even if there was, Israel would have used its nukes as it died.
And in any case, Israel was more useful alive than dead. Stalemate or slow gains in the struggle was the best case for the other Arab nations, so they gave aid to the Palestinians, but not so much as to permit immediate victory. And indeed it seemed as if some progress was being made. The Palestinian Liberation Organization got partial sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza, in exchange for promises to make peace with Israel, which the Palestinians had no intention of fulfilling. Perhaps the true high-water mark was the Barak proposal; it has been condemned by some as not being "fair", but it was far more generous to the Palestinians that any previous offer made by Israel, and when it was refused it got sweetened.
At which point the Palestinians made the single biggest mistake in a very long line of huge mistakes: they decided that the Barak proposal proved that Israel was nearly broken and could be defeated outright, so instead of accepting the sweetened deal and actually living by its terms, they went to war. Arafat rejected it, and initiated th