One illusion Americans may need to be disabused of has to do with what “ordinary” Arabs want. Iraqis, for instance, are unlikely to be waiting on the U.S. to “liberate” them from Saddam Hussein. Arabs across the Islamic world don’t get up in the morning and pray for American-style democracy.

The recent specter of the moderate leaders of Jordan and Egypt being forced by their raging citizens to practically cut crucial ties with Israel substantiates what the polls have been telling us: The Arab world is as radical and militant – if not more so – than its leadership. Wise to the fact is Arab-American scholar Fouad Ajami. “It is a peculiarity of the Arab political order,” he writes in the Wall Street Journal, “that many of the rulers and the dynasties are more moderate than the populace.”

Ditto for ordinary Palestinian moms and pops, who encourage their kids to go out with a bang. They support the terror campaign against Israel and deride Arafat when he takes action, however symbolic, against the homegrown terrorists.

Contrary to President Bush’s admonitions, Yasser Arafat has not let his people down but has faithfully kept abreast with their thirst for blood.

This is not to say that Arafat’s heart is not in destroying Israel; it is. Arafat forthrightly declared on many occasions, not least of them a 1996 speech in Stockholm, that “we plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state.”

For Arafat, staying violent means staying current.

Although, keeping his finger on the racing Palestinian pulse is as much about his survival as a relevant leader of an extremist people as it is about personal avarice: The size of Arafat’s bank account is said to approximate the size of the Palestinian Authority’s deficit.

Arafat has, to this end, practiced a skilled triangulation game, reaching agreements with the most radical Arab leaders and factions while stringing the Israeli and American camps along.

In a 1997 policy paper, Yoseph Bodansky, an internationally renowned military analyst, points out that the “peace process” has always been a function of the “self-delusions of politicians,” something Arafat implicitly understands.

According to Bodansky, Arafat’s “peace” juggle resulted in his 1996 green light to Hamas, allowing the terrorists free reign in the PA. Attention to regional strategizing saw Arafat, circa 1996, commit to collaborating with Syria in destabilizing Israel, with the Palestinians aiming for Israel’s belly and the Syrians for her northern periphery. Working closely with Damascus and Tehran has provided Arafat with a buffer against radical Islamists, who might at any time get the urge to topple him. The fact that they haven’t attests to Arafat’s congruence with the aims of the radicals.

Under Labor governments, Israel believed that if she committed to returning to pre-’67 borders and relinquished control over Jerusalem, peace would prevail. The Right of Return – which entails absorbing millions of Arabs into Israel and is, in effect, a euphemism for the destruction of Israel – was more contentious, but not entirely off the Israeli negotiating table. No sooner did Prime Minister Ehud Barak give away the keys to the store than Arafat walked away from the agreement. To Arafat, Camp David and Oslo were no more than instruments “for eliciting unilateral concessions and withdrawals from Israel.” If anything, Arafat’s bait and switch tactics demonstrate that the “peace process” has been no more than a strategy to guarantee his survival as a leader.

After rejecting Barak’s offer of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, Arafat was free to act on the growing acceptance of radical Islam among Palestinians. Late in 2000, Arafat released terrorists from PA prisons and set about escalating the situation with Israel.

Under his shifty peepers, Arafat’s own Fatah Tanzim and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade evolved into full-fledged jihadist outfits that have claimed responsibility for over 300 terror attacks since September 2000, including the most recent slaughter of dozens of Israeli civilians. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, members of whom receive salaries from Arafat, has also “made it” onto the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Well aware of how petulant and trigger-happy Americans become when their Oprah-aping dreams about peace are shattered, Arab leaders keep up the “peace process” facade, whispering sweet nothings in American ears while acting to cement their allegiance to Palestinian terrorism with financial support for the intifada.

Yasser Arafat’s longevity can be chalked up to his knack for keeping abreast with the man on the street cum common suicide bomber. Both want a Palestinian state that stretches from the sea to the river, with Jews relegated to the sea.

Fools, hypocrites and – interchangeably – pacifists will always condemn self-defense. It remains, ultimately, for Israel to deal with the Huns at her gate.

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