Arafat Rides Three Kidnappings Back to Domination of the Gaza Strip

Yasser Arafat waited until the Gaza Strip was relegated to the status of a write-off to be dumped by Israel, with the Egyptians and Britain maintaining an interim security presence until the Palestinians were deemed fit to rule a reformed, terror-free administration. Arafat himself was seen as a spent force. However, 48 hours before Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon launched coalition negotiations for a government lineup committed to evacuating the Gaza Strip, Arafat pounced. One, two, three abductions were staged in the Gaza Strip in a 10-hour period on Friday, July 16 – first the venal and hated Gaza police chief Ghazi Jebali, followed by the southern military coordinator, Khaled Abu Aloul, and lastly, four of five French aid workers, who were hauled out of a Khan Younes restaurant by masked, armed and locked in the town’s Red Crescent center. They were all freed within hours and none hurt.
The next day, as Sharon’s office crowed that these events proved how necessary it was to speed up his unilateral evacuation, Arafat struck with lightning speed: he rid himself of Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, who had been forced on him in the first place, purged the top ranks of Gaza Strip national security and installed his own men.
By nightfall Saturday, Arafat was in absolute command of the territory.
His nephew, Mussa Arafat, chief contractor of the Rafah smuggling tunnels from Egypt, was named head of national security forces in the Gaza Strip; Jebali fired and replaced by Saeb al-Ajez. debkafile reported Wednesday, July 14, that Arafat had been ready with a plan for a sham reform of the Palestinian security services to fool the Americans, Egyptians, Europeans and Israelis into believing that he had merged his security bodies into three arms, the key change demanded. He first appointed Abdel Mujaida Razek, the head of Gaza national security forces, overall commander of all Palestinian national forces and promoted 30 officers announcing they were to be pensioned off.
Since there were not given replacements, these officers will continue to serve, except that they will earn bigger salaries
The next stage of his plot to deceive took place on Saturday, capitalizing on the pretext of the kidnappings. Arafat was able to take in many media who announced he had indeed overhauled his security services as per American-Egyptian-Egyptian-Israeli demands. The truth was that he had successfully pulled off a grand scheme to re-assert his grip on the territory in time to pre-empt the preliminary steps for Sharon’s unilateral engagement and withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Former Gazan strongman Mohammed Dahlan can forget about taking over and Cairo will not agree to expose its personnel to the humiliations suffered Friday by Jebali or, worse, assassination like the three CIA agents who ventured into the Gaza Strip last October.
British secret intelligence service agents, in Gaza as facilitators of reforms and intermediaries between the reformed Palestinian services and Israeli representatives will have become redundant now that the reason for their being there has been snatched away
This chain of cause and event clearly betrays the real hand behind the Friday kidnappings and their motivation.
It took Arafat 48 hours to rob Sharon of his fundamental political and security rationale for broadening his government, i.e. a timetable for the orderly withdrawal of settlements and troops from a leaderless Gaza Strip and willing outside hands to take over and install a democratic administration purged of terror. Therefore, the Likud-Labor negotiations due to begin Sunday, July 17, will be a futile exercise. Without a clear vista towards disengagement, Labor will not join the Sharon government; without a parliamentary boost, the government cannot survive much longer. Arafat will thus have forced another Israeli prime minister to foreshorten his term and call an early general election, a repeat of his successes against his predecessors, Shimon Peres, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehuad Barak. There is nothing personal about this tactic for Arafat; he has made it a strategic habit to topple Israeli prime ministers while subjecting Israelis to a campaign of murderous terror, thereby sowing anarchy in the Jewish state and weakening it internally and externally.
Of late it is fashionable to depict Israel as the victor in the confrontation with the Palestinians and to dig out despairing Palestinians who have come to realize that a way must be found to end the war. Arafat and his masked kidnap gangs appear impervious to these trends.
When he handed in his cards at the emergency cabinet session in Ramallah Saturday, the second short-lived Palestinian prime minister complained that the chaos in the Gaza Strip was unprecedented. For Arafat, this milieu is meat and drink, though not for the ordinary Gazan. Saturday night, thousands of protesters turned out, shouting to Arafat in reference to his nephew’s promotion to security overlord of the Gaza Strip: “Don’t replace corruption with even more corruption!”

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