Palestinians Decide Sharon Here to Stay

Over the weekend, the Palestinians maintained a high level of violence against Israeli targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip – focusing now on rocket, grenade, shooting and bombing attacks and attempted intrusions of settlements in the Gaza Strip.
At the same time, a senior official Palestinian Authority official, talking to debkafilein Ramallah Saturday night, February 2, registered some changing Palestinian perceptions on certain issues: Ariel Sharon: We now understand that our campaign to unseat Ariel Sharon, which worked against at least two of his predecessors, is a non-starter for the time being. We accept that he takes all the policy decisions and that he is the Bush team’s single preferred opposite number in the US-Israeli working relationship. This is what brought Abu Mazen (Arafat’s unofficial deputy Mahmoud Abbas), Mohammed Rashid (his top financial adviser) and Abu Ala (the Palestinian legislation Speaker, Ahmed Qorei) to call on Sharon at his Jerusalem home (last Wednesday, January 3).
debkafile‘s political sources note that the interview took place at the end of the second month of Arafat’s confinement to his compound in Ramallah, hemmed in by an Israeli tank force. Yet his virtual house arrest was not an issue in his top aides’ encounter with Sharon, any more than it was when Qorei met foreign minister Shimon Peres in New York Saturday. The Palestinians have grasped that this specific point would have to be addressed to the White House, to which they have no access. Washington: We’re in a tight spot in our relations with the Americans and we are preparing an all-out effort to restore our communications. We might have to meet some of their terms, but certainly not all of them. Shimon Peres: No one in the Palestinian leadership wants to listen to his ideas any longer. In general, we feel he has led us up the garden path. We’re sure he is not one of Sharon’s strategic players. AbuAla is the only one who listens to him, but without agreeing.
BinyaminBen Eliezer: We don’t entertain much hope of him as Labor leader, or even of the party itself. As things stand, Labor has very little say in national policy-making.
Europe: We don’t quite understand what they want. In the last six months, they appear muddled and contradict themselves. Just as Peres follows Sharon’s lead, the Europeans are sitting on America’s tail, only they hate to admit it.
Military (Terror) Campaign: That is not up to the executive branch on our side. All these decisions are the sole province of our president, Yasser Arafat.
Other: Our Palestinian source declined to go on record on the issues of Arafat’s displacement as chairman of the Palestinian Authority, its links with the Hizballah, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the failed Karine-A arms smuggling attempt and the likelihood of a regional war erupting.

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