Arafat Demands 10pc Cut on All Palestinian Revenues
As he demonstrated during US secretary of state Colin Powell visit this week, Mahmoud Abbas – Abu Mazen – is endeavoring to earn the job of first Palestinian prime minister by keeping three balls up in the air at once: He wants to prove his “reformist” credentials to Washington and Jerusalem, uphold his Palestinian credibility at home and in the Arab world and beat off Yasser Arafat’s incessant overt and sneak assaults on his standing. It is hard to see how he can succeed.
One of his maneuvers is to show Powell he is willing to meet with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, while at the same time angling behind Arafat’s back for an invitation to Damascus for talks with Syrian president Bashar Assad. He has also sent emissaries to Cairo to open communications with senior Hamas officers. His decision to get together with Sharon depends largely on the responses he receives from Cairo and Damascus. Abu Mazen is relying on those responses to offset the effect of a meeting with Sharon and help him shed the “American-Israeli puppet” image he has gained in the Palestinian street.
Assad, for his part, would find receiving the Palestinian prime minister a useful aid to absolving himself in Washington’s eyes as dabbler in terror – except that the Americans will not be so easily gulled.
Sunday night, May 11, Powell used an interview with Israeli Channel Two to warn Syria it would find itself “on the wrong side of history” if it tried to destabilize postwar Iraq or continued harboring radical Palestinian groups. This statement confirmed debkafile‘s disclosure that a US ultimatum had been handed to the Syrian ruler. The warning was even sharper and more explicit than any delivered to Saddam Hussein before the Iraq war. Powell’s “radical Palestinian groups” usage derived from the latest practice of Assad and Abu Mazen to refer to Hamas and Jihad Islami as “political groups” so as to avoid having to fight them. Powell made the point that the United States is determined to fight terrorism all the way – whatever name it goes under.
According to American sources, the US secretary left his meeting with the Palestinian prime minister in Jericho Sunday afternoon with a sense of failure. Abu Mazen made it clear that he would not confront the Palestinian terrorists head-on but only seek dialogue. Powell had to accept therefore that he had not achieved any shift in the Palestinian leader’s position on terror.
Reports that Palestinian internal security minister Mohamed Dahlan began tackling terror strongholds before Powell’s arrival proved to have been optimistic propaganda behind which a different reality lurked. Intelligence sources confirm Palestinian suicide killers were – and remain – poised ready to strike as soon as Israel responded to the American request to lift the blockade on Palestinian areas. Monday morning therefore Israel lost no time in replacing the checkpoints and recalling the 25,000 work permits it had issued a few hours earlier.
His shortcomings as a counter-terror force are of no use to Abu Mazen in fending off Arafat’s guerrilla forays against his authority. The latest is an exercise in bureaucracy. Arafat has begun making “presidential appointments” in the prime minister’s own departments. Abu Mazen woke up to find Arafat’s henchmen posted in key executive positions, like that of director-general of the ministry, armed with “presidential powers” to function independently of Abu Mazen’s appointed ministers.
The Abu Mazen-Powell conversation in Jericho prompted a fresh demand: Arafat now claims a 10 percent cut for the “President’s Office” of all amounts conveyed to the Palestinian government, including Israeli transfers to Palestinian finance minister Salim Fayyad and Washington’s pledge of $50 m for creating jobs and alleviating popular hardship. A portion of all the funds reaching him is automatically earmarked for funding the terrorist groups he sponsors, the Fatah-Tanzim and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. For Arafat there is nothing more fitting than for the United States and Israeli to channel funds for Palestinian terrorists through the vehicle of the Palestinian government established expressly for putting down Palestinian terror.
In line with Arafat’s efforts to conjure up income, fresh indications appear again in the Palestinian media regarding the imminent reopening the Jericho Casino, which Israel shut down two years ago when Palestinian gunmen began using its windows as firing positions. The reports say that special Palestinian forces have begun training for guard duty at the gambling palace, which is jointly owned by Arafat and Austrian partners connected with Israeli business interests. The prospect of reopening the Jericho Casino tends to surface each time any sort of peace process or accommodation is in the air.
debkafile has repeatedly demonstrated that no peace initiative from any quarter has the slightest prospect of coming into being as long as Yasser Arafat sits unscathed in his Muqataa headquarters in Ramallah surrounded by his 200 or so terrorist masterminds. No matter how many Israelis and others die in his campaign of terror, nothing dents the plate-armored personal immunity extended him by the United States, Europe, Asia and sections of Israeli society, as well as the Sharon government.
Sunday, May 11, shortly before Powell sat down with prime minister Sharon to discuss Israeli goodwill gestures towards the Palestinians, two Palestinian gunmen whom debkafile defense sources report came from that same Muqataa, gunned down Zion David, a 53-year old Israeli father of six, who was driving to work on the West Bank from his home in Givat Zeev north of Jerusalem. The two killers, members of the Fatah suicide arm, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, returned from their mission to home base. Arafat opted for precision in timing this time rather than one of his large-scale homicides. Since the Iraq war, he is slightly more wary of American reactions. But even after US forces prevailed in Iraq, he is determined to show Muslims and Arabs that he is not afraid of American presidents, US secretaries of state and Israeli prime ministers. He therefore let it be known that the killer squad set out on its mission from his own presidential offices.
Arafat does not hide his intentions: He clearly states that his campaign of murder against the Jews of Israel is a calling and he is convinced no harm will come to him and the minions he harbors.
Arafat’s Private Terrorist Army – A Partial List
debkafile has obtained exclusively the first partial list of the estimated 200 terrorist masterminds, controllers and operatives whom Yasser Arafat harbors and activates from his headquarters in Ramallah. Some are still serving officers in Palestinian security services. They are all members of his Fatah group and its suicide terror arm, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, one squad of which shot dead Zion David on Sunday, May 11, in a terror attack timed for US secretary of state Colin Powell’s latest peace mission.
1. Oni Khilo ‘Abu Ayad’ – a senior officer in the Palestinian General Intelligence
2. Mahmoud Damra – a senior officer in Arafat’s Presidential Guard (Force 17) and one of Col. Tawfiq Tirawi’s top operatives
3. Ali Barghuthi
4. Ali Darwish, aka “Abu Nawras”
5. Ahmad Al-Am
6. Mohammad Shawish
7. Khaled Shawish
8. Kamel Ghanam – 8. and 9. are members of Arafat’s Presidential Guard
9. Mohamad Ghassan Sheikh
10. Mouzid Sawaftah
11. Ramzi Oubeida
12. Mohamad Rahal
13. Rafat Maarouf
14. Tareq Kondah.
15. Dawoud Al-Haj
16. Shadi Saida