Scarcely over a year now, on November 11, 2004, President Yasser Arafat died in a Paris hospital. Today, the rumors and then the confirmation of early Israeli elections, and the commemoration of Isaac Rabin’s assassination – senseless for what has been done with his political legacy – have almost completely veiled the memorial of Arafat’s death, still surrounded by mystery. Although the prevailing press continues to present Rabin as a peace martyr, the opposite happens with Yasser Arafat, shown as an obstacle for the solution of the conflict.
Former PLO representative to the UK, Karma Nabulsi, expressed her indignation at this myth in The Guardian. The negative image of the old Palestinian leader, presented as an obstacle to the peace process, has outshone the media approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Yasser Arafat has been demonized and introduced as the major difficulty for peace, and this myth justifies the perpetuation of colonial dominance in the occupied territories. Nabulsi is asking for the destruction of this myth and to face reality as it is.

Contrary to what she wishes the myth not only lives on but is also strengthened by an even more amazing one: a Mahmood Abbas who is striving to fight Palestinian extremists to achieve peace and an Ariel Sharon as the center of an Israeli centrist union vs. its extreme right. On the pretext of Ariel Sharon partly renouncing the Great Israel dream, the Western press, suffering from amnesia, has forgotten his past as leader of a killer commando, his role in the massacre of Sabra and Chatilla, and his provocations which led to the second Interfada. Accepting the man as a pragmatist or as an “Israeli De Gaulle”, the mass media has become blind to the colonial expansion in the West Bank or to the bombing of civilian populations in Gaza. The Prime Minister and his advisors claim the retreat from Gaza to keep control of the West Bank and often stir up anti-Arab racism. But the conformist press will not report this.
The creation of a new party: Kadima – a division of Likud – by Ariel Sharon, has been thus presented by the atlantist media as the emergence of a centrist union midway between Likud’s “extremists” and Labor Party “populists” who rejected Shimon Peres’s strategy.

Obviously, the Zionist analysts of Israeli political life share this same vision. So, Barry Rubin - Director of the GLORIA Center at the interdisciplinary university of Israel – expressed his satisfaction at the creation of Kadima in a debate disseminated by Project Syndicate. At the time we were writing these lines, “only” The Australian (Australia), Taipei Times (Taiwan), and the Daily Star (Lebanon and the Middle East media) had also published the text. However a larger spreading is foreseen. Rubin regards the new party as the void filler in Israeli political life, which will embody the new national consensus: the rejection of all negotiations with Palestinians followed by timely and unilateral territorial retreats. He predicts Sharon’s big victory in the next elections.
His counterpart at the BESA Center, Shmuel Sandler, is less categorical in the Jerusalem Post as to General Sharon’s final victory. Sandler thinks that despite Ariel Sharon’s statements, the Israeli political system will not change because of the emergence of a new party, for which a change of mind would be necessary. On the contrary, he thinks that this creation will take up a space between the Labor Party and Likud, and become the center of gravity of Israeli political life; that is, the embodiment of a national consensus that will turn its back on both the Great Israel project and the Oslo process. According to Sandler, the new party will not consequently have an overwhelming victory but a future comparable to that of the post-war Italian Christian democrats with a predominant position in all governmental coalitions.

The Arab side is not blind to Ariel Sharon’s nature and can see the next aggressions he is preparing. Lebanese writer and journalist of Al Watan Zouhair Madjed thinks that Sharon will manipulate the elections by attacking the Hezbollah and Syria – two targets against which the international opinion has been urged. This will allow weakening Iran, and above all, creating a national consensus around his new party.

In the presence of Ariel Sharon’s impressive campaign, his left-wing opponents barely hold out a hope, and this is Labor Party leader Amir Peretz’s victory vs. Shimon Peres.
The new Labor leader proved his pacifist convictions in an interview given to the LabourStart. Amir Peretz said that the Israeli problem is not that of its boundaries, but the principle of the occupation itself. When a country occupies another, it creates an atmosphere of violence and corruption that is inconsistent with the normal practice of democracy. So, he thinks that calling an end to the occupation is necessary for Israel’s own identity – a classic argument of the Israeli left.
Palestinian political scientist Saleh Abdul Jalad pins all his hopes on Amir Peretz in the Daily Star. In a debate tinged with sadness, Jalad expressed, like Karma Nabulsi did, that facts destroy the myth of a peace-opposing Arafat, but regrets that nothing will be changed. The Palestinians have proved that the blockade was not theirs, hence Jalad’s hope of an Israeli counterpart for peace too, and a wish for Peretz’s victory in the next elections. Left-wing Israeli editorialist and opponent to the occupation Gideon Levy also presents Peretz as a providential man in his Ha’aretz article, though he is not sure of Peretz’s election due to the large number of his opponents: the wealthy class does not want his social politics, the military do not want a civilian and his Moroccan roots make him a target of Israel’s society of striking racism.

But isn’t Amir Peretz the providential man that some would like to see? Another Ha’aretz editorialist Akiva Eldar also supported Peretz but did not describe the same man Gideon Levy did. Although the latter affirmed that Peretz could respect the rights of Israel/Palestine Arabs, Eldar was more pleased with Peretz as a firm hand “pacifist” who will reject the return of the refugees, keep Jerusalem and only make some changes in the drawing of the annexation wall in the West Bank.
Such remarks by Amir Peretz’s followers make The Economist correspondent in the region Graham Usher doubt the virtues of the new Labor leader. Here is his question in Al-Ahram: what else can be expected from Peretz that has not been already promised by previous leaders who once in power accomplish nothing? Pessimistic, this journalist considers that nobody knows since Peretz stands almost no chance of being elected.