Abu Ala Tells Arafat: Enough Is Enough

Last weekend, Ahmed Qureia aka Abu Ala became the second Palestinian prime minister to warn Yasser Arafat he was about to resign. He determined to throw in the sponge after discovering that the Palestinian Authority’s coffers were bare. There was nothing left to meet the January 1 payroll for 80,000 public workers and security personnel. In fact the PA has no operating funds at all.
Arafat, according to debkafile‘s Palestinian sources, greeted the threat in stony silence.
If Abu Ala quits now, he will have lasted a month and-a-half, compared with the four months his processor survived on the job before being driven out. Abu Mazen now spends most of his time in Amman and rarely ventures into the West Bank.
Abu Ala accused Arafat of exploiting the attention focused on fruitless discussions about a truce for an underhand move to help himself to the PA’s funds and whisk its financial system out of the hands of the pro-American Palestinian finance minister, Salem Fayed.
The evicted minister is left with nothing to do but twiddle his thumbs at home.
debkafile‘s sources note that Washington and Jerusalem would prefer to keep this development under their hats because, by removing Fayed, Arafat has put paid to the last remnant of the Palestinian reforms that were to have presaged the Middle East roadmap to peace. Those reforms, instituted by the Bush Administration, the Abu Mazen government and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, were designed to block the flow of PA funds for terrorist use. This crucial step was solemnized at the tripartite Aqaba summit last June. President George W. Bush has been lavish in his praise of Fayed’s efforts to regulate Palestinian finances and make them transparent.
With the approach of January 1, a number of Palestinian officials appealed urgently to Americans, Europeans and Saudis for urgent handouts to pay out wages. Nothing has been forthcoming. The prime minister’s planned trip to Riyadh to plea for help has not so far come off.
The PA’s straitened finances were not Abu Ala’s only motive for threatening to resign – nor even Arafat’s control of Palestinian security forces and negotiating tactics, which made his job as prime minister no better than a sinecure.
debkafile‘s Palestinian and Middle East sources have learned that he also despaired of the dismal state of the Palestinian Authority’s foreign relations. Last week’s assault on visiting Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Maher in al Aqsa mosque has ricocheted disastrously on the traditionally close ties with Cairo. Egyptian officials refer furiously to Palestinian mismanagement of Temple Mount, while the Cairo press is throwing out hints that Arafat himself ordered the humiliating attack on Maher.
The low in Egyptian-Palestinian relations is unprecedented in the decade since the 1993 Oslo Accords brought PLO leaders into control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The situation looks like going from bad to worse. The word from Amman is that the Jordanians are preparing to add their voice to the Mubarak regime’s vilification of the Palestinian Authority’s presence on and administration of the Muslim shrines on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
Jordanian ex-Crown Prince Hassan confirmed the crisis when he Monday, December 29, in Amman: Sharon is a pragmatist, but he has no partner to talk to on the Palestinian side.

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