Monday, June 24, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 149



Palestinians need democracy

Thomas Asma
Opinion Columnist

National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice recently said the Palestinian leadership "is corrupt and cavorts with terror." The logical conclusion from her statement is that Arafat and the Palestinian Authority need to go.

Yasser Arafat's admission of "mistakes" and relenting acceptance of the need for reform and elections only state the obvious: The Palestinians need democracy. Of course, Arafat has backtracked, saying elections can only take place after the "Israeli occupation" ends.

The Palestinians need representation now, not later, to assure a true voice in the search for statehood and peace. Arafat is no true voice or partner for peace. He is a ruthless terrorist turned dictator of a displaced people. Palestinian votes do not legitimize Arafat -- dictatorial Arab leaders do. Even democratically elected President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt maintains that Arafat is the only partner for peace in Israel, despite the fact he does not represent the will of the people via elections.

If all of Palestine voted in an election, the chairman would not win. He does not have the goodwill of the people in mind. Following his release from his compound after the battle of Jenin, Arafat briefly enjoyed high "approval ratings." The ratings quickly faded after losing the euphoric support of a fickle populace. He did not even visit besieged Jenin after his release for fear of being a spectacle, jeering and possible violence. 

In addition to Arafat's lack of democratic mandate or goodwill of the people, he also has no military legitimacy and any promises made in light of this fact are unaccountable. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups are autonomous and state flatly that Israel's existence is unacceptable. Arafat has no leadership in those organizations and no military. Consequently, Arafat is unable to enforce any security provisions of any treaty he may sign.

Negotiating with Arafat is folly, akin to constructing a peace treaty with some anonymous Palestinian from the streets of Jenin. Neither of the two represents the will of the people nor has any control. Arafat is a figurehead, one who selfishly carries on his impotent post to feed his appetite for status and the appearance of power. 

Arafat should be exiled, never to return to Palestine or any leadership post thereof in any country, for all the reasons stated above. He should be replaced with democratic institutions and elected leaders. 

Once an elected official comes forth with the ability to compromise, the willingness to negotiate in good faith, the power to enforce treaty security provisions and the initiative for peace from the Palestinian people, Israel can go to the bargaining table. Then, both parties can be held accountable for promises solemnly made and suffer the possible military consequences.

Israel negotiated with the false voice of Arafat, ignored the moral dilemma concerning said negotiations with a non-democratic leader and reaped the real life result of violence and murder. After elections, Israel can at last learn if the Palestinians truly want peace. 

Unfortunately, jihad looks to be the most likely electoral mandate of the people. The popularity of homicide bombing among Palestinians suggests that peace is not viable, and a recent poll cited by a Wall Street Journal editorial "indicated that a majority saw the destruction of Israel as their goal." 

Whether the outcome of elections is peace or jihad, at least Israel knows where it stands with the Palestinian people, straight from the voting booth.

Asma, a sophomore political science major, 
can be reached at

To contact the Opinon Section Editor, send e-mail to

To contact other members of 
The Daily Cougar Online staff, 


Advertise in The Daily Cougar

Student Publications
University of Houston
151C Communication Bldg
Houston, Texas 77204-4015

©2005, Student Publications. All rights reserved.
Permissions/Web Use Policy


Last update:

Visit The Daily Cougar