debkafile’s Arafat Watchers on His Next Moves

The Mitchell Report was submitted Friday to Israel and the Palestinians. debkafile‘s experts do not expect much to come out of it for exactly the same reason that nothing came out of previous reports or accords: Accommodation does not suit Yasser Arafat’s book. His first reaction was to call for a second Sharm El-Sheikh Summit, but he will no more honor its resolutions and accords than he kept to those of Sharm El-Sheikh Summit I, which created the Mitchell panel.
One of the Palestinian leader’s major commitments to the international summit led by US President Clinton was to publicly instruct his people in Arab to halt their attacks. It has never been fulfilled to this day.
The panel headed by former US Senator George Mitchell, while attempting impartiality, does not support the Arab charge that the Palestinian intifada was provoked last September by Ariel Sharon’s Temple Mount visit – although it affected subsequent events. Both sides are assigned responsibility for the continuing bloodshed. The Palestinians for the violence; the Israelis for their settlement policy. The report demands a total freeze on Israeli settlement activity, including natural growth. While calling for a revival of the negotiating process, the Mitchell report does not take up the Palestinians’ demand for an armed international force to protect Palestinian areas. The parties were given till May 15 to submit their comments.

The October summit at Sharm El-Sheikh was attended by President Clinton and the leaders of Egypt, Israel, the Palestinians, Jordan, the European Union and the UN secretary. If Arafat’s idea for a replay comes off, it will be attended by two new faces, those of US President George W. Bush and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. It is therefore a typical Arafat device to outmaneuver President Bush’s refusal thus far to invite him to the White House. He believes he can trick the US president into coming to the Middle East instead, without himself bending to ceasefire demands or accepting peace proposals, including the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative.
According to debkafile‘s Palestinian sources, Arafat has toned down none of his objectives since last July’s Camp David summit fiasco: They point to his address to an audience in Pretoria, South Africa, Thursday night, in which he demanded nothing less than Palestinian sovereignty over all Jerusalem including Temple Mount and the Western Wall, the restoration of all 1948 Arab refugees to all parts of Israel, dismantling of the settlements and Israel’s withdrawal to the 1947 borders laid down in UN Resolution 181, which the Arab world rejected then, going to war to obliterate the fledgling Jewish state.
The speech was not reported in Israel. But it was picked up by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan, due to meet Arafat for a meeting in Sharm El Sheikh today. According to debkafile‘s sources in Amman and Cairo, Mubarak and Abdallah agreed over the phone that Arafat’s intransigent positions meant one thing: His sole intention is to step up the fighting. There is therefore no hope for their joint initiative and therefore no point in convening the three-way summit.

On the other hand, both rulers, according to our sources, are extremely worried by their security services’ reports of seething domestic unrest stirred up by Moslem militants and dissenting groups. On that score, Mubarak invited Arafat to Sharm El-Sheikh Saturday. Tense and angry, he demanded clear answers from Arafat on whether he accepted the Egyptian-Jordanian formula and the US-monitored combined security coordination framework with the Israelis. In short, what did Arafat want? The Palestinian leader did not answer. He simply got up and flew back to Gaza.
debkafile‘s Palestinian sources make no secret of what their leader wants: to escalate the violence and bloodshed to reach a fresh climax on May 15, the day of Israel’s founding, or the Palestinian Day of the Catastrophe, while at the same time extracting a White House invitation from President Bush. That invitation is a key element in his strategy which remains unchanged: A show of returning to the negotiating table for a goal quite the opposite of that conceived by Presidents Bush and Mubarak, King Abdullah, Israeli Foreign Minister Peres and Prime Minister Sharon.
His plan is to repeat his success in toppling Ehud Barak and humiliating President Clinton – by switching on the violence while pretending to go along with the diplomatic process – thereby undermining Israeli government stability. As he told his Tanzim militia chiefs in Ramallah ten days ago: “Just as I brought Natanyahu and Barak down, so will I overthrow Sharon.”

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