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He's not a mob hitman -- he just takes money from people and then kills other people

Nicholas Kristoff comes to the conclusion that it's not all Arafat's fault that there's no peace between Israel and Palestinians. His argument?

  1. Arafat was right not to negotiate at Camp David, because, after all, President Clinton and Ehud Barak were so desperate for peace that they made even more concessions to Arafat later on.

  2. After these extra concessions were made,
    This is the moment when Mr. Arafat should have leaped. Instead he dithered, and then went to the White House on Jan. 2, 2001, to deliver a final answer which was so murky with reservations that when the Palestinians had left the room, Mr. Clinton and his advisers huddled to try to figure out what Mr. Arafat had said.
    I think Arafat said something like, "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."

  3. Arafat stalled until the Israeli elections forced a halt to negotiations, and then Palestinian violence led to Ariel Sharon's victory.
Kristoff sums up his thinking:
All in all, it is fair to fault Mr. Arafat for lacking the courage to strike a deal at Taba; for being a maddening, vacillating and passive negotiator; for condoning violence that unseated the best Israeli peace partner the Palestinians could have had. But the common view in the West that Mr. Arafat flatly rejected a reasonable peace deal, and that it is thus pointless to attempt a strategy of negotiation, is a myth.
"Your honor, sure, my client was friends with the people who robbed the bank, and sure, he was in the room when they planned the bank robbery, and sure, he let them borrow his guns, and sure, he provided the bank's blueprints to them, and sure, he was in the car waiting with the engine running while they went in and held up the bank, and sure, he drove them away before the police arrived. But that doesn't mean he was part of a conspiracy to rob the bank."

Remind me, if I'm ever on trial, not to hire Kristoff to deliver my closing argument to the jury.

 

Did it ever occur to Kristoff that Arafat's problem wasn't a lack of "courage," but a lack of will? Showing he doesn't get it, Kristoff quotes:

"Arafat was the way he always was you can't pin him down but he wanted to continue negotiating," recalled Robert Malley, a Clinton aide in the room.
Well of course he wanted to continue negotiating. Negotiating was (and is) great for Arafat. He continually got more and more promised to him without him having to actually do anything, and it prevented Israel from taking action against him. It was a no-lose situation for Arafat. Negotiations are fine. It's compromising that Arafat has trouble with. The peace "process" is wonderful for Arafat; it's peace he doesn't want.

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