Bush Has (Small) Plans for Arafat
According to debkafile‘s Washington sources, the Bush team is drafting new plans for Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. Its basic assumption is that, as long as Arafat remains acknowledged leader of the Palestinian people, President Bush’s oft-repeated vision of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel is impracticable.
For now, the administration does not advocate Arafat’s ouster as chairman of the Palestinian Authority or, contrary to some of the latest reports, finding him and his close following a place of exile, like Morocco. The plan under discussion now speaks of reducing the area under his control to the Gaza Strip alone. In view of this proposal, Ariel Sharon refrained from extending the IDF’s counter-terror offensive to the Palestinian towns in the Gaza Strip, GazaCity, Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya, Khan Younes and Rafah – an action that puzzled many. Security forces were instructed only to keep the lid on Palestinian violence.
The notion behind the US proposal is that in Gaza, the Egyptians and Israelis can keep an eye on Arafat and insulate him from his power bases on the West Bank.
In the West Bank itself, traditional local power groups in the cities, such as Hebron, Ramallah, and Nablus, will be invited to form a regional self-ruling authority. It will maintain token ties with the Gaza-based Palestinian Authority, but its mainline political links will be with Jordan, which, jointly with Israel, will administer the territory’s remolded security and intelligence services.
In keeping with this plan, Israel forces engaged in Operation Defensive Shield systematically tore down the Palestinian Authority’s security and intelligence organs on the West Bank and are still busy demolishing the PA’s government offices.
Amid the ruins of his administration, debkafile‘s Palestinian sources report that Arafat never tires of telling followers confined with him in Ramallah – and the Palestinian officials who visited him during the US secretary Colin Powell’s visit last week – that the real victors in the current confrontation are not the Americans or the Israelis, but Arafat and the Palestinian people. Pointing to himself, he quotes the Arabic adage: “Hasm Hazm”, which loosely translated means: He who has the last word. Another favorite saying is: If it doesn’t break us, it makes us stronger.
He knows about Washington’s idea of moving him to Gaza and dismisses it as an “American-Zionist conspiracy” that the Arab nation will smash to bits.
Since his confinement in Ramallah, Arafat has abandoned his most insistent demands; he no longer wants an international force to keep Israelis and Palestinians apart and shrugs off the Saudi peace initiative as a device to mask the secret willingness of Arab rulers to go along with the American-Zionist conspiracy. Above all, he wants to remove Egypt and Jordan – but also Saudi Arabia and Syria – from any involvement in Palestinian affairs.
This he hopes to achieve by stirring up increasingly violent popular riots in Arab cities in unison with a fresh wave of suicide and terrorist attacks against Israel, which he is hatching even now. When he refers to himself, it is no longer as Palestinian president, but as the pre-eminent pan-Arab leader. He dwells at length on the growing manifestation of martyrs and suicides in Arab lands, holding up as an example the Egyptian who was killed Friday, April 19, when he tried to infiltrate Israel from Sinai, and the Egyptian woman caught Saturday, April 20 in Taba, attempting to smuggle explosive substances into Israel. In Arafat’s eyes, both were “martyrs of the Arab nation” – and path-blazers.
Arafat pins his highest hopes on Saddam Hussein, declaring that at the peak of popular unrest in the Arab states and the fresh anti-Israel suicide cycle, Iraq choose the moment to throw its might against Israel and Jordan. An American military offensive against Baghdad will make no difference; Arafat has no doubt that the offensive will fail and the Iraqi armed forces will be free in no time to loose deadly missiles attacks against Jordan and Israel.