Nice, thoughtful post, ehrlich bob.
Here are two thoughts:
(1) The embezzlement.
Clearly stealing vast sums that are intended to help your desperately poor people, and using such sums to live in obscene luxury is wrong. But it is also nothing surprising. Corrupt dictators are par for the course in much of the world. So while we are right to condemn the Mugabe’s of the world (and may be forgiven for treating as perverse jokes the UN votes cast by representatives of such dictators) – Arafat does not seem unique to me in this regard.
(2) When will we see peace.
To see the difficulty, imagine that you are a dictator in the middle east.
Your people have little freedom in what they can read, what they can say, or what they can believe. Women have even less freedom, and are indeed sometimes killed by their own families for the “offense” of bing the victim of a rape. Girls are allowed locked in a school to burn rather than allow them to escape improperly attired. Other than those lucky enough to live off of oil money, the people are desperately poor. Corruption sucks the life out of the economy. There is no great hope future advancement, as students are generally allowed to learn only religious texts and hatred for those of other religions.
You are very aware (more aware than anyone in the west, one would imagine) of the amount of anger and hatred that has built up in your people. After living in such conditions for years, and seeing whatever resources the nation does have go to you, your family, and other corrupt government oficials, your people overflow with dispair and bitterness.
As the dictator, does this scare you? Of course it does. There is a limit to how many people you can kill or torture into submission. So to keep your people from turning their anger against you, you desperately require a scapegoat. You need someone for your people to blame for their misery, other than you and your corrupt government that keep them poor.
Fortunately for you, there is Israel. You tell your people that “THEY are the reason you are poor.” “THEY are the reason you suffer.” “THEY are the cause of violence and evil in the world.” And you back it up in every word that people are allowed to read, every broadcast they are allowed to see on TV, and every lesson they are taught in school. And it works. You are able to continue to live a life of luxury, while your people suffer.
Now tell me, how eager are you to give up your power to make peace with Israel? How willing are you to give up the single most important tool you have? Indeed is there anything that you would NOT do, to ensure that your people continue to view Israel as their “real” enemy rather than turning their anger on you?
How long will the conflict with Israel last? Ask yourself how long dictators in the middle east want to stay in power. How long will they channel the (very legitimate) anger of their people away from their own regimes. How soon will the dictators say “Okay, okay… mea culpa. Actually the reason you are poor is that my family and I have been emezzling the wealth of the nation for years, so that we can live in palaces and pad our Swiss accounts. And the reason you have no job and no prospects is that we have deliberately kept you from learning anything beyond the Quran in school.”
When that day comes, I have hope that there will be peace.