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Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 14:26 GMT
Did Arafat miscalculate?
Ehud Barak, Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat (left) at Camp David summit
Yasser Arafat rejected the terms offered at Camp David
By Middle East analyst Roger Hardy

As Israelis digest the stunning defeat of Prime Minister Ehud Barak by his controversial right-wing challenger Ariel Sharon, many are saying the real author of Mr Barak's downfall is the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

They blame him for the failure of the peace process and the eruption of the intifada - the Palestinian uprising of the last four months.

By voting for Mr Sharon, Israelis have vented their disappointment with Mr Barak - and their anger with Mr Arafat.

The big fact in Israeli life is the violence which erupted in September and has claimed some 400 lives.

Even though the great majority of the dead are Palestinian, the intifada has destroyed Israel's belief in peace, and in the process destroyed Mr Barak.

Palestinian protesters in East Jerusalem
Continuing violence undermined Ehud Barak's credibility with voters

Most Israelis believe Mr Barak made the Palestinians a generous - perhaps over-generous - peace offer. They were stunned when Mr Arafat rejected it and - in their view - ignited the intifada.

Palestinians, of course, see things very differently.

They were pleased, even relieved, when their leader spurned Mr Barak's offer.

And in their eyes it is legitimate to use the intifada as a means of putting political pressure on Israel, since they, the Palestinians, are by far the weaker party.

But the suspicion must remain that Mr Arafat has miscalculated.

Playing a risky game of brinkmanship, he may well have thought he could squeeze important concessions from Mr Barak.

Instead, he has ended up with Mr Sharon.

And now the Palestinians, no less than the Israelis, will have to bear the consequences of Mr Sharon's massive victory.

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13 Jan 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Palestinian divisions
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