So when I got to the Outback Steakhouse in Aurora, to meet with Hugh Hewitt and the rest of the Rocky Mountain Alliance, the first question they asked was whether or not we'd be able to toast the death of Yasser Arafat. No, I said, but I did get to tell the joke about Arafat dying on a Jewish holiday.
Soon. Not yet, but not long.
Of course, Arafat never bothered to groom a successor, and given his Stalinesque tendencies, that's probably just as well for the successors. The problem now is the problem common to all thugocracies: when the head thug dies, the new leader is the
one who settles all family business the fastest. So long as he doesn't go to the meeting in Gaza, on al-Tessio's territory, where he'll be safe.
Everything you hear is rumor," said Gazi Hanania, deputy speaker of the legislature. "President Arafat is sleeping."
Sure, and so is the parrot. When Arafat actually does pass on, die, move along, cease to be, become an ex-Arafat, what passes for Palestinian leadership is going to have to staple his feet to a forklift and parade him around until things settle down.
Right now, everyone's predicting a bloodbath, and I suppose that's the way to bet. There are half a dozen factions who've been sharpening their knives, waiting for this moment, and there's a tremendous first-mover competitive advantage to be had here.
Still, there's some hope this thing could be settled more quickly than we think. Moving quickly, and intelligently, and not too quickly, takes organization, which is one thing that Hamas has in increasingly short supply. Most of it has been sandblasted off of Gaza streets and sidewalks, and what's left has become the Terrorists that Dare Not Speak Their Names. So there's some reason to hope that the non-Islamist irredentist Arabs will take over, rather than the Islamists.
That's the good news. The bad news is that we've seen this film before. Everyone knew Chernenko was a placeholder, especially when the voting booth looked suspiciously like his hospital room. But Andropov was a different story. If all it takes is a tailored suit and some white wine to make some people forget that you've spent you're entire career destabilizing legitimate governments around the world, there should be lots of candidates for the job.
A quick transition to someone who's Not Arafat could stall Israel's plans short of actual victory. Whoever comes out is bound to be an unknown quantity, and the calls for Israel to stop its "provocations" long enough to give the new guy a chance to actually prove his murderous intentions. The Europeans won't believe it, but they'll be speaking to enough people who will, even within Israel.
That wasn't the plan. The plan was for Israel to finish the fence, and tell the Palestinians to come back when they stopped killing each other long enough to come up for air.
Sharon has had defeat snatched from the jaws of victory so many times before. In Sinai. In Beirut. Semi-responsible Palestinians have been calling for Arafat to step aside for a while now. Wouldn't is be ironic if he had finally found a way to elude Sharon one last time?