|Israel Resource Review
||3rd December, 2001
New Psychological Profile of Yassir Arafat
Yasser Arafat has many faces. He is prone to sudden outbursts of anger, he weeps uncontrollably, sometimes makes violent threats, sometimes gets carried away giving compliments, sometimes goes deep into his shell. When he wants to relieve stress, he pops animated children"s movies or old westerns into the VCR.
When he was a child, he would divide all of the neighborhood children
into groups, lead them on marches, and would beat with a stick those who
disobeyed his orders. If psychologists can be believed, then since his
mother's death when he was four years old, Arafat has consistently
suppressed his feelings, has avoided intimate relationships, and has lived
a life pursued by feelings of betrayal.
On more than one occasion in the past, his personality has been
analyzed by reputable psychological and psychiatric clinics in the West,
most of whom were working for intelligence organizations. Childhood
experiences, traumas, scars, the cultural milestones of his life, the small
and large perversions and satisfactions -- these were all combined to form
a psychological profile, and the psychologists believed that they could
understand his motives and the way he thinks.
Over the past few months, the broadest psychological analysis of Arafat
ever done has been carried out, based on thousands of pieces of
biographical information, studies of his leadership and his personality,
from his early childhood until the present day. This time, faced with the
violent conflict and the diplomatic freeze, the researchers were asked not
only to put together a portrait, but to reach operational conclusions and
make recommendations and look at the possibilities of success in future
negotiations with the PA under his leadership. They were also asked to put
together a "Do/Don't" list for Israeli leaders who come in contact with
The project was initiated by two men. The first, Dr. Shaul Kimhi,
considered the pioneer of political psychology in Israel, has achieved wide
international recognition. Kimhi served for years as special adviser to
IDF Intelligence and as a clinical psychologist in the service of the
intelligence community, even receiving the Intelligence branch's
Commander's Prize for creative thinking. The second man behind the project
is reserve Col. Shmuel Even, a doctor of economics and an adviser on
strategy and administration, and a member of the Jaffee Center for
Strategic Research at Tel Aviv University. Even served as a senior officer
in IDF Intelligence and was involved in the research division's national
intelligence assessments at the time of the Oslo accord. [ . . . ] Regarding
the connection between the research and his current profession, Even says,
"Arafat affects the dollar rate here more than the governor of the Bank of
Israel . . . "
Prepared to Suffer Casualties
The conclusion that stands out most in the report is an extremely harsh
criticism of the unilateral separation plan. According to the researchers,
this will only encourage Arafat to continue the armed conflict. If and
when Israel carries out such a plan, meaning a withdrawal from most of the
territories under its control without an agreement, the researchers claim
that Arafat would see himself as responsible for causing Israel a crushing
military defeat, the likes of which has not been seen in the history of the
Arab nation. "As voices in Israel calling for a unilateral withdrawal grow
louder, and as a lesson learned from the success of Hizbullah in bringing
about the IDF's withdrawal from South Lebanon, they write, it strengthens
Arafat's belief that the Intifada is the way to apply pressure on Israel in
order to improve his standing in negotiations, and the tool that will cause
Israel to unilaterally withdraw without an agreement . . . "
The researchers write, "Arafat will choose the path of negotiations only
if he sees that nothing can be achieved by the continuation of the violent
conflict, and so he should not be allowed to make any political
achievements as a result of violence.[ . . . ]" They also write that
unilateral separation will strengthen the opposition movements in the Arab
world and will decrease the Arab world's motivation to reach peace
agreements with Israel in the future.
"The things we wrote about unilateral separation are not a political
statement or recommendation", says Dr. Kimhi. "We did not draft this
recommendation by taking into consideration all of the factors that exist
in the region. We related only to one factor, Arafat, on a personal
Alongside their treatment of the unilateral withdrawal proposal, the
researchers also make a series of recommendations regarding Israel's
handling of the violent conflict in the territories. Massive Israeli
military pressure on the Palestinian Authority, they say, will not affect
Arafat, and will not cause him to make his positions more flexible. On the
contrary, in crisis situations and under siege, Arafat feels his best,
tends to take chances and is willing to suffer casualties. He feels great
satisfaction when fighting a force larger than himself. In such moments,
he shows an unmistakable unwillingness to compromise. Pinpoint military
actions, on the other hand, are more effective, in their opinion, because
they upset Arafat's feeling of control of the situation. Economic pressure
on the population, such as closures and cutting off water and electricity,
will also have no effect on Arafat, according to the researchers. On the
contrary, such pressure even causes a certain satisfaction, because it
serves him in Arab world and Western public opinion and allows him to
display the distress of the Palestinian population.
If so, what kinds of pressure do affect him? Stopping the flow of tax
money that Israel collects and funnels directly into PA coffers, and
stopping foreign aid, say the researchers, will have an effect".
Mubarak Yes, Assad No
Among their other recommendations, the researchers say that Arafat
should not be presented with ultimatums, certainly not in public. Arafat
believes with all his heart that such steps are meant to embarrass him.
The researchers recommend that Israel treat him with respect and make
various gestures to him in connection with his personal standing, as these
affect his mood more than anything else. Instead of ultimatums, the
researchers say that a business approach should be used, an equation that
would say, "Give us X and you'll get Y." According to the report, American
pressure does have an effect on Arafat, but will not bring about a change
in his position in any of the main areas of conflict such as the future of
Jerusalem or the right of return. Mubarak, though, is capable of
influencing him. Bashar Assad and King Abdullah, on the other hand, have
hardly any influence. [ . . . ]
Past research reports established that Arafat is a capricious leader who
reacts to events instinctively and emotionally and is willing to be
flexible only when pushed to the brink of the chasm. The new research,
however, says that Arafat has all of the characteristics of a leader
capable of broad strategic thinking and who makes long-term plans: He
defines his vision, sets clear goals, identifies the "players" in the
arena, sets "red lines" and sticks to them throughout the years, uses all
of the tools that can be used to achieve his goals, and chooses a path of
action by identifying its relative advantages.
Most people that write about him claim that he does not have any
strategy. We think he does," says Dr. Kimhi. "He is calculating, he
always checks which way the wind is blowing, and he has clear goals in the
long-term. He is always looking at the peak, even if his tactics are
ridden with contradictions and impulsive behavior. Even if he always walks
a fine line and sometimes crosses it, overturns the tables and is not
afraid of moves that could endanger the accomplishments that he made in
negotiations, these are calculated moves. They are a result of his basic
assumptions, for example, that time is on the side of the Palestinians.
Arafat is a man with amazing patience." [ . . . ]
Arafat, who is depicted in the research report as a calculating leader
with an outstanding strategic sense, is on the other hand also a man who
suffers from emotional instability. For example, he demands extreme
appreciation from those around him, shows signs of megalomania and has a
real emotional need to display superiority and excellence. When he says,
"I am the most important man in the Middle East," he means it. Arafat
suffers from over-sensitivity to criticism, according to the researchers,
and he has a tendency towards angry outbursts. He is depicted as someone
obsessed with independence. His wife Suha once recounted that he darns his
own socks and sews his own buttons. When, on one occasion, she offered to
do it for him, he said, "Never". He cannot accept the authority of others.
Arafat is also obsessively suspicious, in constant need of stimulation,
and finds it difficult to enjoy moments of quiet and periods of calm. [ . . . ]
His constant trips abroad show, according to the researchers, obsessive
activity, which has accompanied him ever since he was a hyperactive child.
In the professional jargon of the world of psychology, the report
establishes that he shows characteristics of paranoia, narcissism, and a
borderline personality disorder. "Yes, he has characteristics of a
personality disorder",says Dr. Kimhi, "but he is certainly sane, and the
various disorders do not seriously affect his behavior. He is a sane man,
but very different from what we are familiar with".
"He is mainly a one-dimensional man",the researches define Arafat. He
has never read a novel in his life, never taken a walk in nature, has not
been to the theater in years. He has no friend, no buddy, and has no need
for one. His emotional world is deficient. The researches say Arafat
fills his emotional lacks by devoting his entire life to one thing, the
Palestinian struggle, and suppressing all the rest. "That is why he does
not suffer from loneliness" Kimhi says.
The research also highlight Arafat's theatrical abilities. "He is
capable, on the same day, of being president, commander, terrorist, victim
and peace-maker. He can change roles in the blink of an eye. On some of
the times he's broken out in tears, these were planned outbursts. It's
hard to know what to do, on the most basic level, when he sits with Israeli
journalists and sheds tears and talks about peace, and two hours later
gives an aide an order to make sure the fires bugs.
"Arafat is most of all not a credible person and his word cannot be
trusted",according to the report. "He has no emotional problem with
lying, and it doesn't bother him to lie. At the same time, he is sure that
everyone around him is lying to him . . . He is very sensitive about his
place in history, and spends time thinking about how he will be remembered
and what will be written about him and about his leadership . . .
In general, many psychological assessments have to do with the death of
Arafat's mother. Researchers theorize and connect this traumatic event to
the fact that this man grew up suffering from many emotional losses, and
very little emotional support. The death, they say, caused in him an
extreme suppression of emotions, as well as a reduced ability to make
intimate connections, and a difficulty in understanding and empathizing
with the other side.
He learned from a very early age that he could rely only on himself.
This fight for survival developed in him a great suspicion of people on the
one hand, and an unending need to demonstrate to those around him how much
more successful he is than them. This need is accompanied by much
belligerency, since already as a youth, he began his involvement in
underground activity and stood out as a leader of Palestinian students in
Cairo. He lives with the sense of being a victim, has lived all of his life
as a leader running for his life and in a constant fight for survival. He
is not built, write the three researchers, for a sharp transition to a life
of peace and cooperation.
And there is also some surprise gossip in the article: Regarding rumors
that the PA chairman is a homosexual, the researchers write: It is likely
that these rumors are not grounded in reality. Had intelligence
information indicated a different reality, there is no doubt that the
authors would have been aware of it.
This article appeared in Yedioth Ahronoth
on November 30, 2001
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Is Every Israeli a Target . . . Everywhere in Israel?
The Assessments of Israeli Intelligence
This last week the security establishment has been bombarded with an unprecedented number of intelligence warnings.
Even the most veteran GSS and IDF officers, those who have seen everything,
can't remember so many concentrated intelligence warnings of all types and
from every direction: Suicide bombing attacks, shooting attacks, roadside
bombs, car bombs, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Tanzim and the Popular Front for
the Liberation of Palestine. They are all in this together, in a
concentrated terrorist effort, while the Palestinian Authority stands on
the sidelines and looks on as if at a movie, as if this was none of its
The GSS, which has found itself to be in the last number of days like
the Dutch child with his finger in the dike, has been stretched taut. Its
field commanders don't go home on leave and the desk sergeants are caving
under the sheer workload.
For two days straight, between Wednesday and Friday, Deputy GSS Chief Y did not sleep a wink. In his capacity as Avi Dichter's temporary substitute, Y directed a number of rolling operations concurrently in an attempt to apprehend terrorists who are in search of any crack or fissure in the closure and blockade so as to infiltrate and strike.
Anyone who is informed of the array of warnings cannot remain
indifferent. Hebron is under blockade because of an intention to launch a
terror cell to perpetrate a shooting attack in Beer Sheva. Nablus is under
blockade in light of plans to provide terror cells with bombs. In Tulkarm
the IDF is operating in Area A in light of Hamas plans to dispatch
terrorists to the Sharon and Tel Aviv area. In Jenin -- the capital of
suicide bombers -- the IDF re-occupied Palestinian territory in a
desperate attempt to prevent the departure of terrorists to the cities in
northern Israel. In those [Palestinian] cities, as in others, the IDF is
in the midst of a record number of operations in pursuit of wanted men, all
of whom are "ticking bombs.
A senior security official said last night that the terror organizations
have set themselves the target of destroying everything, and doing so
immediately. From their perspective, the entire country is a front and
every Israeli is a target. Officials in the security establishment believe
that Arafat has to decide now which side he is on and behave accordingly.
The time for playing games is over, and he has to decide whether he is
going to fight terror or whether Israel is going to fight him.
This article ran in Maariv on, December 2, 2001
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A Campaign Of Organized Terrorism Throughout Israel
Senior Arabic Affairs Correspondent, Yediot Aharonot
This is no longer the question of a single terrorist operation, but rather of a campaign of organized terrorism thought the country: Suicide bombers, car bombs, shooting and bombs. The objective of the terrorists is to kill as many Israeli as possible, to sow as much fear and terror and try to use
terrorism to force [Israel] to agree to conditions dictated by the
This is an around-the-clock campaign of terrorism, and its aim is to
undermine our way of life: That of a woman who goes to the market, a couple
shopping at the supermarket, innocent passengers on a bus and train, as
well of teenagers on a weekend outing.
This is terrorism which receives the support and encouragement of the
Palestinian street, the Palestinian leadership and Arafat. He knows how to
make statements against terrorism, but on the ground does nothing to stop
This is no longer terrorism only by Islamic Jihad, Hamas or Tanzim.
This is a terrorism by all of the Palestinian organizations. The
ideological borders have been blurred. They are all united under the
umbrella of a single ideology, that of sowing the terror of terrorism in
This is terrorism that does not take into account the times and
schedules of a visit by envoys and mediators. This is a terrorism which
also knows how to slap senior envoys such as Zinni in the face, and let
them him know he is not wanted here, that we will get the job done against
Israel and the Jews ourselves.
This is a campaign of terrorism that regretfully has not received the
sincere and sweeping condemnation of Europe. On the contrary. There are
European countries which say this is a "legitimate struggle." Even the
American reaction is ambiguous and unsatisfying.
There is no choice. One has to stand strong against this terror, to
continue taking all the preventative measures, and to employ all means
available to prevent terrorists form leaving PA territories, even if it
entails suffering for civilians. Everything must be done to prevent
Palestinians from crossing the Green Line.
The Palestinians must understand, even if the explanation will be made
the hard way, that if they do not expunge this terrorism from their midst,
they are likely to pay a far heavier price.
This artcile ran in Yedioth Ahronoth on November 30, 2001
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Does Peres Still Plan to Fund Raise for Arafat in Oslo?
The spate of terror attacks in Israel on December 1st and 2nd found Israel Foreign Minister Shimon Peres chairing a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on the morning of December 2nd in his role as the acting prime minister of Israel, in the absence of travelling Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.
At that cabinet meeting, Peres issued a series of statements to demand action and not words from Arafat and the PA in response to Arab terror.
Yet on that morning of December 2nd, the Jerusalem Post ran a news story that reminded its readership that Peres was still planning to meet Arafat on December 10th in Oslo, together with the "donor nations" that provide the PA with its operating budget for health, education, welfare and security expenses. That gathering in Oslo is on the occasion of the 100th anniverary of the Nobel Prize. Arafat, Rabin and Peres shared that prize in December, 1994.
Indeed, the EU provides the PA with $10 million EURO per month for its security services. Israel Resource News Agency has received documentation that the EU officials in Jerusalem know that the PA security services openly fund, train and arm the Hamas cadres that have been carrying out the terror acts in all parts of Israel. The IDF confirms that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad conducts its activities with the full cooperation with these same PA security forces. (See Israel Resource Review of October 31, 2001)
When I was in Brussels on November 9, EU officials affirmed that their aid to the PA is with the full knowledge and endorsement of the Israel Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Shimon Peres.
EU officials also affirmed that their support for the organizations affliiated with Yose Beilin is also with the endorsement of the Israel Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Peres.
EU officials also affirmed that their funding of PA education is with the endorsement of the Israel Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Peres.
Indeed, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs took a major step to deflect criticism of the new school books of the Palestinian Authority by co-sponsoring a seminar for the foreign media and the diplomatic corps in
Jerusalem on November 27, 2001, in which Prof. Nathan Brown made a presentation that refuted the idea that the PA school books were filled with incitement. Prof. Brown is affiliated with George Washington University and with the Middle East Institute, an Arab interest group in Washington.
Prof. Brown has also assisted the PA to plan their constitution.
So there you have it: An Arabist from Washington, has been given credibility by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Shimon Peres has stated on many occasions that the Oslo Process will not be reversed, no matter what.
Will Peres fly to Oslo to salvage Arafat and the PA next week? Time will tell.
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Palestinian Authority Textbooks: Another View
Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University
In 1999 and 2000, I conducted research on the establishment of the new Palestinian curriculum by collecting documents, textbooks, and interviewing Palestinian educators. Since that time, I have continued the research by continuing to survey textbooks and discussions of educational issues by Palestinian educators. This research was supported by a Fulbright grant through the United States-Israel Educational Foundation (USIEF) and another grant from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). The conclusions of the research are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views either of USIEF or USIP.
I am aware of the international controversy surrounding Palestinian textbooks. Most accusations against the books are based on reports from the "Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace" (CMIP). Although that organization presents reports that are tendentious and misleading, few independent reviews have been conducted. Therefore CMIP reports--which seek to obscure rather than highlight the changes that have been made--are not frequently challenged. I hope that my own review of Palestinian textbooks can help correct the inaccurate impressions prevalent in international discussions of the issue.
The Palestinian Authority has published two sets of books. The first, the National Education series, was designed to supplement the interim use of Jordanian and Egyptian books. That series was written in 1994. It contained no racism or incitement. It also mentioned no region as Palestinian other than those occupied by Israel in 1967. It was largely silent on most sensitive political issues. The second series of books, a comprehensive curriculum, has been completed for grades one, two, six, and seven. Remaining grades will be added, two at a time, over the next few years. The newer books have broken some of the silence of the earlier books but still generally treat sensitive issues with circumspection. Based on a review of those books, I can state the following:
The new books are devoid of racism and anti-Semitism. Thus, the PA should be credited with removing such material from the curriculum rather than maintaining it. The CMIP relies for its claims on the Palestinian decision to continue use of older Egyptian and Jordanian material. The Egyptian and Jordanian books do contain problematic material, though they were adopted only as an interim measure. Palestinian educators are highly critical of the books in question and anxious to replace them (as they have now done for four grades). Oddly, Israel actually participated in continuing the books. Palestinian schools under Israeli control in East Jerusalem used the Jordanian books with the offensive material but they were not allowed to use the 1994 National Education books devoid of any offensive material (because they were written by the Palestinian Authority). Only in 2000 did some East Jerusalem schools begin to switch to the new Palestinian curriculum.
The Palestinian books strive to create a strong sense of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim identity in students. This dominates their treatment of history. Thus, they concentrate on trying to demonstrate a continuing Arab presence in Palestine. Though they do not deny a Jewish presence, they do not dwell on it. In Islamic education, the books have to confront Muslim-Jewish relations (in the early days of Islam) and Muslim-Christian relations (during the Crusades). The books clearly take the point of view of the Muslims in both instances. But they also clearly support peaceful relations (for instance, by lauding Saladin for insisting that people of all faiths should have access to Jerusalem). The books do not treat Jewish history in any comprehensive manner, positively or negatively.
Perhaps the most difficult issue is how to present Palestine in the present, since all matters (statehood, borders, Israeli settlements) remain unresolved. The books deliver no consistent message. Sometimes they seek to avoid the subject (for instance, a group of schoolchildren takes a trip from Gaza to Jerusalem; the books make no mention of the fact that checkpoints and closure make such a school trip impossible). Sometimes they convey the Palestinian national consensus (that Jerusalem must be their capital, that Israeli settlements harm Palestinians) while bypassing other issues. Sometimes they try to distinguish between "geographic" or "historic" Palestine with "political" Palestine. Thus they sometimes discuss (generally briefly) some areas within Israel's 1967 borders. But each book also contains a foreword describing the West Bank and Gaza as "the two parts of the homeland." In short, political realities are confusing and difficult for educators to describe to children. It would be unfair to describe such confused treatment as "delegitimation of Israel."
Similarly, the books do not encourage violence. They do urge students to be willing to make self-sacrifice for the religion or nation (as most schoolbooks do), but they do not urge violence in that regard. One book does contain a poem praising the children who threw stones in the first intifada, but at the same time praises Gandhi at some length for non-violence.
In closing, allow me to make three observations:
The efforts to discredit Palestinian textbooks have already caused some damage. Many leading Palestinian educators have argued that the new curriculum should be designed not only to promote nationalist identity but also the skills of democratic citizenship. Stung by international criticism, education officials tend to be less open to such contributions than they were in the past. The cause of educational reform has been obstructed by the harsh and unfair international criticism.
Schoolbooks are products of the broader political situation. The original plan for the Palestinian curriculum (produced in 1996) involved the introduction of Hebrew-language instruction as an elective in secondary school. I believe that plan is still in effect. But the deterioration of the broader political context has taken a toll. In 2000, a first-grade book had a picture of a coin from the era of the British mandate with Palestine written in both Hebrew and Arabic. In 2001, after a year of the second intifada, a picture of a Mandate-era postage stamp erased the Hebrew. The Palestinian curriculum is not a "war" curriculum. Neither is it a "peace" curriculum. A real peace curriculum will follow, not precede, a comprehensive peace.
I hesitate to compare the Israeli and Palestinian educational systems.
Their situations are different, and I conducted no study on Israeli textbooks. But my children have attended Israeli schools and I have tried to keep abreast of research by Israeli academics. My impression is that both Israeli and Palestinian schools handle an awkward political situation similarly: they are actually more similar than either side would like to admit!
Professor Brown can be contacted at
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