Do Arafat’s Aides Really Want to Halt Terror?

Israel’s chief of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Malka, has said that heads of Palestinian preventive security agencies are urging Yasser Arafat to put a stop to his campaign of terror. debkafile notes that this widely-reported quote, though accurate, was presented out of its general context. It was timed deliberately, together with another leak, for the day before British prime minister Tony Blair arrived in Washington to meet President George W. Bush, armed with a Middle East mediation plan put forward by a group of European and US diplomats. According to that leak, Gaza Strip Security chief, Muhamed Dahlan, one of Arafat’ top organizers of terrorist operations, has voluntarily exiled himself from Gaza to Cairo until Arafat abandons his Intifada and terrorist violence. This story was put about to imply that a peace camp is forming up in the Palestinian Authority leadership and eroding Arafat’s rejectionist power base.
The truth, as Maj.-Gen. Malka made very clear, is that Dahlan never exiled himself to Cairo. He is very much present in Gaza. In spreading word of his opposition to continued Palestinian violence, his associates were actuated by motives far from a love of peace – or even the drive for national liberation, as some well-meaning European and American spokesmen would like to believe – but rather by the unadulterated compulsions of self-interest.
Those compulsions prompted the launching of the intifada in the first place. It is a matter of record, according to debkafile‘s Palestinian sources, that the months leading up to Arafat’s proclamation of his “uprising” were filled with a rising popular clamor in the West Bank and Gaza Strip against the deeply corrupt practices of Arafat and the heads of the Palestinian Authority. By mid-2000, the unrest directly threatened the chairman’s hold on power. The intifada was devised as a means of staving off open revolt.
The nearly 14 months of conflict have exacted a heavy toll of the Palestinian people in casualties, acute hunger, poverty and hardship. Yet so deep is the disaffection and disillusionment of the ordinary Palestinian, that whenever a lull occurs in the violence, the chorus of protest against Arafat’s leadership gains volume.
Dahlan is perfectly aware of this. In setting himself up as would-be successor to Arafat, the Gazan security chief, like his rivals, pretends to distance himself from Arafat’s discredited leadership in order to build himself up as Mr. Clean. Every few weeks therefore his cronies spread word that Dahlan is turning against the ways of terror in order to attend to the true woes of the people – the corruption at the top of the Palestinian Authority.
However, as debkafile‘s sources emphasize, there is nothing in this message but spin. In reality, Dahlan is as fully occupied as ever he was on Arafat’s behalf, setting up terror campaigns and suppressing the chairman’s opponents. Halting the intifada would not suit Dahlan’s private book any more than Arafat’s.

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