Arafat Has No Intention of Delivering
In a key speech delivered Sunday, December 16, Day One of Eid el Fitr, the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat vowed the Palestinians would continue their struggle against Israel until a Palestinian state is attained, with Jerusalem its capital. At the same time, he instructed his people to obey Palestinian Authority resolutions and halt armed operations completely and immediately. Israel, he declared, must cease its attacks on Palestinians; but suicide operations must stop too, “as they give Sharon the initiative”.
In his first public appearance since the Israeli government declared him “irrelevant” on December 13, Arafat solemnly promised his people eventual victory and a state capital in Jerusalem “with all its churches and mosques”.
In Washington, the president’s national security adviser, Condaleezza Rice, commented: “We ask no more of him than any responsible leader in the world. It’s time for him to stop talking and do something.”
Similarly, the mildest reaction in Jerusalem was that the Palestinian leader would be judged on the goods he delivered, not words. Some officials called his speech fraudulent.
They all point out that Arafat did not live up to his advance billing and refrained from heralding the end of the intifada he launched against Israel last year. Furthermore, in the last 24 hours, he only went through the motions of sealing the offices of 33 Hamas and Jihad Islami, but made no arrests, leaving their “military arms” untouched.
debkafile‘s Palestinian sources report a last-minute incident over the text of Arafat’s speech, as he worked on it Saturday night. Some of his advisers, including the heads of the Palestinian preventive security agencies, urged him to heed American, European and Israeli demands and call a stop to Palestinian terrorist operations – at least for a time. They said Palestinian security forces were ready to impose this directive if necessary. Some warned him he was leading the Palestinians into a head-on collision with the United States, placing all the intifada’s achievements at risk.
At this, Arafat burst out angrily: “What achievements are you talking about! The Oslo accords were nothing but a Trojan horse planted inside the Palestinian camp and packed with Israeli soldiers!”
The words Arafat uttered in his end-of-Ramadan speech mean nothing without the secret subtext known only to the Palestinian leader’s inner circle, which debkafile ‘s Palestinian sources now disclose for the first time. That hidden reality surfaced only in part in
President George W. Bush’s Rose Garden announcement on December 5 of a United States freeze on the American assets of the Holy Land Foundation and the Beit El-Mal Holdings Company, as contributors to the terrorist operations of the militant Islamic Hamas.
That disclosure came out of the exhaustive US investigation into the funding of world terrorism and led to Washington demanding the shutdown of the same two financial bodies in Palestinian-ruled territory.
Arafat flatly refused.
US envoy Anthony Zinni then repeated the demand, emphasizing it was at least as important for the war on terror as the actual halt in violence.
Arafat refused again.
Arafat’s order Saturday December 15 to close 33 institutions and offices of the Hamas and Jihad Islami left their military arms and also their financial bodies intact.
That omission reduces to nil the practical content of Arafat’s Eid el-Fitr promises, in view of
debkafile‘s discovery from its Washington and Jerusalem sources. US undercover investigations into the sources of Palestinian terrorist funding and its destination strongly point to the Holy Land Foundation and the Beit El-Mal Holdings Company as being in fact an integral part of the Palestinian Authority’s social welfare ministry and the channel through which Arafat obtains moneys for keeping the intifada going. This flow of funds, the American investigators believe, is the bedrock of the partnership in terror between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas and the Jihad Islami.
Immediately after the United States declared war on terror in September, pledging an exhaustive inquiry into its funding, Arafat secretly sacked Dr. Attal El-Awna as chairman of the board of the central Palestinian Bank and appointed himself instead. US investigators began to suspect that Arafat was anxious to hide the misdirection of moneys, mostly US and European donations to the Palestinian Authority, to groups listed in Washington as terrorist organizations.
As the investigation unfolded, it began to look as though Arafat initiated his financial deal with the Hamas and Jihad Islami as early as May 2000, at the time of the Camp David peace talks brokered by President Clinton between him and the Israeli prime minister at the time, Ehud Barak.
That was five months before the intifada was actually launched. The Palestinian leader, preparing himself for the cutoff of US and European funds after the armed uprising erupted, organized a new source of funding in good time from the two Islamic terrorist groups. Their price? An active role in Palestinian “military operations” against Israel and a free rein for terror.
Given those discoveries, President Bush’s Rose Garden announcement on December 5 was meant, according to debkafile ‘s US sources close to US and Israeli counter-terror bodies, as a veiled warning to Arafat to crack down on the two Islamic terrorist groups, or else face the investigation continuing and exposing all the Palestinian Authority’s links with the terrorists’ financers. Washington would thus take a critical step towards declaring the Palestinian Authority an organization supporting terror.
The Palestinian leader turned a deaf ear to this warning.
It was repeated Saturday, December 15 – this time by Arafat’s own advisers, who said he was playing with fire by not closing the Holy Land Foundation and the Beit El-Mal Holdings Company in Palestinian territory. The Palestinian Authority – and Arafat in person – faced being declared terrorists, who would be fought and extradited as part of America’s war on terror.
But when they cautioned him that he was risking the achievements of the intifada and even those of the 1993 Oslo peace accords, Arafat blew up and came out with his Trojan horse outburst.
In Washington and Jerusalem, Arafat will be judged not by his speech but by the way he addresses its subtext. His promises will be credited if he shuts down the two financial bodies that feed his terrorist partnership with the Hamas and Jihad Islami. His failure to do so is tantamount to his announcing that Palestinian terrorism will go on regardless of his promises, including suicide attacks.