REPORTER: KERRY BREWSTER
Yasser Arafat, who renounced terrorism to sit with his enemy, Israel, who spoke often of “the peace of the brave”, was for seven years committed to talking, not fighting.
YASSER ARAFAT, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY LEADER: We will carry on and we will work together to protect the peace process, because we are committed – and I am repeating again in front of Your Excellency – we are committed in the peace process.
Now, the frail 71-year-old appears either unwilling or unable to defy the angry imperative of the street. This week, he told his former partners in peace to “go to hell”.
YASSER ARAFAT: Our people is continuing their road to Jerusalem, the capital of our independent Palestinian state. To accept or not to accept, let them go to hell.
PROFESSOR DAVID MENASHRI, TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY: I am confused with Arafat. I believe that he is a brave man who fought Israel for years and made a strategic decision to go to peace process, and knowing the limitations to the power to achieve his own vision. And now, I don`t know.
Arafat`s behaviour has confounded moderate Israelis, like Professor David Menashri, of Tel Aviv University, who trusted the Palestinian leader.
PROF. DAVID MENASHRI: What is the meaning of “peace of the brave”? What happened with this vision? What happened with the whole concept of negotiating for peace through the seven years from the Oslo agreement? For me, “peace of the brave” is the bravery and courage to make painful decisions. It`s to lead your people to painful compromises.
The elation which greeted Arafat on his arrival in Gaza in 1994 has long gone. Palestinians had high hopes for the peace process, but to most, it simply didn`t deliver.
ANALYST: Arafat wants and needs to deliver something that relieves Palestinians of the burdens of an unfulfilled promise, and that was that there would be a peace settlement that would give them prosperity and give them freedom and give them hope.
Despite the fanfare, the interim agreement Arafat signed in 1993 guaranteed very little. Over the years, Palestinians came to believe they`d never get a viable state. Israelis kept building new Jewish settlements or expanding old ones – in effect, carving up the West Bank.
ADNAN ABU LEILA, PALESTINE BAR ASSOCIATION: In spite of the Oslo agreements, what we see, in fact, is every day, they take land, every day, the settlements are expanded. No-one can stop them.
By the time of the Camp David summit in July, Yasser Arafat was, in the eyes of Palestinians, the man who`d sold them out. His political and personal survival demanded that he bring home an unequivocal victory. Just at the moment many Israelis thought their dream of peace would come true, when PM Barak was offering more than any previous Israeli leader, Arafat said no.
YASSER ARAFAT: Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine, whether they like it or not. He who doesn`t like it can go drink from the sea.
ISRAELI NEGOTIATOR: It was such a shame and a pity that instead of going on negotiating, he turned the table on us and went to the streets. It`s time to stop it and try to restore calm and try to reach agreement – it`s needed in the area.
Even in death, this Palestinian boy held a rock in his small hand.
129 Palestinians have been killed in three weeks of violence. Even if he wanted to, does Arafat have the power to calm the fury?
ISRAELI NEGOTIATOR: I think he can do it. It may be difficult; it`s not easy – it`s not easy in Israel as well. It`s hard. But this is leadership.
PROF. DAVID MENASHRI: He was going through a very difficult period. He was torn in very serious internal debate with himself about what would be the ultimate compromise that he is willing to make.