Arafat has no control, says UCLA prof in Redwood City

A UCLA professor speaking in Redwood City earlier this month echoed what the Zionist Organization of America has been saying for years:

"Yasser Arafat is afraid of his own people."

Arafat may be the head of the Palestinian Authority, but he has no control over terrorists, who are doing exactly what they want.

Last week Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed on a U.S. plan for a Mideast cease-fire; Hamas officials said they would ignore it, and Islamic Jihad called the deal an insult.

Speaking to an audience of more than 100 at the Conservative Temple Beth Jacob earlier this month, Steven Spiegel suggested that Arafat is the real culprit of the current situation.

According to the UCLA political science professor, Arafat, believing he is a revolutionary, has switched from being the leader of his own Palestinian people to seeing himself as the leader of the Muslim people.

"The Palestinian leader goes with the flow where he thinks he can advance himself domestically and internationally. If international pressure is great enough he will pay attention."

But Arafat can't be trusted. He does not understand the nature of Israel's position and politics, said the author of "World Politics in a New Era," who went on to characterize the Palestinian Authority chairman as "flaky, inconsistent and difficult," along with being a risk-taker.

Spiegel said Arafat is the only one to make deals for the Palestinian side, and that is unfortunate. As the ZOA has been saying for a long time, what Arafat declares in Arabic contradicts what he affirms in English.

In 1988, for example, the Palestinian Authority chair accepted Israel's right to exist during a special U.N. session in Geneva, yet he continues to spew anti-Israel rhetoric to his own people.

As for Ehud Barak, former prime minister of Israel, Spiegel said his style of negotiating was not understood by the Palestinians. Nor did he understand their negotiations.

The professor said the prime minister's insistence on negotiating personally hurt the peace process. Although Barak offered most of the West Bank to the Palestinians at Camp David last July, Arafat refused to respond to the offer, even though it meant a Palestinian state.

According to Siegel, the history of Israel since 1937 has shown that "Israelis are people who can't say no; the Palestinians are people who can't say yes."

The current uprising, in his estimation, is a victims' war. "If you look like the victim to the world, you do well with world opinion."

Spiegel concluded that in the long term, Israelis realize they have to make a deal.

"There is really no alternative or other choice. Their greatest problem is national security. There is potential for weapons of mass destruction in this region. Within 10 years every national state in the region will be able to produce biological weapons. If Israel finds it can deal with other sectors of the Arab world, then it will be able to deal with the Palestinians."

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), attending the lecture, told the audience, "We are struggling with these issues in the Senate. I have great concern that this administration should be more active in focusing on the Middle East. The Senate will be addressing many of these issues."

Sponsors of the lecture included the synagogue's Israel Action Committee in cooperation with the Jewish Community Relations Council and AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby.