The beginning of the end of Yassir Arafat? The Palestine Liberation Front on the point of irrevocable disintegration? The twilight of the Palestinian movement? No sooner had a mutiny been declared in a Fatah barracks in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley last May than the international press was full of such questions-legitimate, to be sure, but premature to say the least. And the political analysts who hastened to reply in the affirmative often did so without sufficiently taking into account the complexity of the crisis or the roles of the various protagonists-behind the scenes as well as center stage-their stated objectives, ulterior motives and miscalculations.
The dissidence within Fatah implicates, directly or indirectly, and to varying degrees, the Arab states (particularly Syria and Libya), Israel, the United States, the U.S.S.R., and other powers outside the region. Moreover, the international community is concerned by this seemingly internal struggle, for on its outcome hangs not only the solution or persistence of the Palestinian problem but, beyond that, the security and stability of a region crucial to the West.
This is not to minimize the importance of the local factors which set off the powder keg, even if it is true that the disagreement which actually triggered the rebellion-Yassir Arafat's appointment to senior command posts of two officers contested by their peers-seems trivial. The appointment was perhaps untimely and ill advised, but it lay well within the powers of the PLO president, and was hardly the first time accusations of unfairness or arbitrariness could have been made. The Fedayeen chief in fact has often been reproached, by friends and adversaries alike, for the "personal power" he wields within the organization, but in the past this never led to confrontations. In fact, it was implicitly understood that without such power he would have been condemned to paralysis by the very dynamics of the movement.
Indeed, the PLO is not a single unified body but a coalition grouping eight Fedayeen organizations running the ideological and
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