The American Interest

Time for Arafat to Go

It is not necessarily a bad thing for a national leader to remain at the helm for a very long time, provided that he is successful.  Otto von Bismarck’s 28 years as Prussia’s and then the Reich’s chief minister were marked by unification and consolidation internally, nifty diplomacy and overall stability of the European balance-of-power structure externally.  His behavior was beneficial from the standpoint of Germany’s national interest; at the same time, remarkably enough, it helped to prevent that fatal polarization of European alliances into two rigid blocs that occurred under his lesser successors.

Even among second-tier powers, the long political careers of Francisco Franco, Ismet Unenu, or Chiang Kai-Shek—love them or hate them—testify to the ability of talented statesmen to retain the nose for best solutions for decades on end, even within a severely limited range of options and amidst rapidly changing circumstances.

The problem with Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, is not that he has been around for too long but that he is no good—and probably never was.  To his own long-suffering people, he is not delivering optimal returns.  This, while regrettable, is irrelevant.  What matters from the standpoint of the American interest is Mr. Arafat’s failure to contribute to a new, and long overdue, Middle Eastern architecture that could bring peace...

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