Magazine article Tikkun

Do You Actually Trust Yasser Arafat?

Magazine article Tikkun

Do You Actually Trust Yasser Arafat?

Article excerpt

Do I trust Yasser Arafat? Of course not. Why should I? Why should anyone trust a politician-whether Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Benjamin Netanyahu, George W. Bush, or Yasser Arafat? Whether we agree with them or not, politicians aren't for trusting. They are for getting done what can be done to make really horrible problems into plain old lousy problems.

"Trusting" a person means believing that even if circumstances change, his or her promise will be kept. In personal relalions, trust is crucial and we honor it. However, if we ever saw a politician actually display that sort of trust in politics, we would be dumbfounded, horrified, and/or deeply disappointed. What idiocy, we would think, that a politician would care more for an out-of-date or miscalculated personal commitment than for the imperatives of his or her constituency, cause, or country. Not that politicians normally announce that they are going back on their promises-of course not. Rather they find legal or "diplomatic" language-recently known as "Clintonese"-which allows them to change policies and break their promises without having to acknowledge that they are doing so. In Machiavellian language, for a Prince it is a mistake to always keep one's promises, but a catastrophe to appear to be someone who does not.

Certainly the Palestinians have little reason to trust the personal integrity of Israeli politicians. From Rabin through Peres, Netanyahu, Barak, and Sharon, they have obfuscated, delayed, lied, backtracked, pettifogged, and cancelled all sorts of commitments under the informal and formal rubrics of the Oslo process. But neither do Israelis have any reason to believe that Yasser Arafat-as typical an example of a conniving, corrupt, power-focused autocrat as one is likely to find in the Middle East-would sacrifice his own position or an opportunity to protect his people's interests in order to avoid having to "reinterpret" a previous commitment.

So, if not trust, what is there to rely on in political life? The answer begins with the fact that, especially for sovereign states, one never has any guarantees. That is what "independence" means, and that is what Zionism wanted for the Jews, a sovereign state that would relieve Gentiles of having to protect Jews in a world built on interest and not trust. …

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