Prospects of White House Invitation for Arafat

debkafile‘s political analysts believe that the US may conceivably invite Arafat to the White House. The rationale for this assessment comes in four parts:
1. Israel foreign minister Shimon Peres’s Washington visit last week advanced the Palestinian leader’s chances of receiving an invitation. When he raised the possibility to President Bush and Secretary Powell, he heard no sounds of dissent. Therefore, after meeting the president, Peres felt free to repeat the view that he regards Arafat as a peace partner. Neither Bush nor Powell inquired about the prospects of a ceasefire. Peres inferred from this that they do not object to him continuing promoting his premise that Arafat will eventually accept a ceasefire.
If the administration opts for the Peres track, it will have to depart radically from its understandings with Sharon. However, if the Americans see Peres making progress in pushing Sharon towards accepting the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative and driving Arafat towards accepting a ceasefire, they may conceivably turn away from those understandings and follow the Peres line. If that happens, Arafat will get his White House invitation. 2. US secretary of state Colin Powell hoped with Peres that at the trilateral Mubarak-Abdullah-Arafat get-together scheduled for today would persuade Arafat – against certain promised incentives from the other two – to go along with the Egyptian-Jordanian draft or some ceasefire framework – or both. They were optimistic, even though they had the report (carried by debkafile April 27)of Arafat’s advance warning to his Tanzim followers before setting off for Amman and Pretoria last week, to pay no heed to his words but to carry on the intifada. The intifada, he told them, was waged on the authority of the Palestinian people, not him, Arafat. 3. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s response to Arafat’s tactics are examined against their underlying motives: Mubarak still hopes to retain a modicum of influence over Arafat, to prove which he needs to bring him round to a ceasefire and the Egyptian-Jordanian formula.
Abdallah thinks Egypt might be persuaded to espouse Jordan’s bid to become the dominant force on the Palestinian West Bank – at Arafat’s expense.
Sharon leans towards the pro-Jordanian line, while Peres goes in the opposite direction, holding that Arafat should be buttressed at Abdullah’s expense. Sharon has not settled on his final course. His overruling ambition to keep Peres and the Labor party in his national unity government tilts him towards the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative and the ceasefire strategy, while fighting a rearguard action against the White House issuing an invitation to Arafat. However if he decides to let Labor and Peres go – and this is in the cards in the next couple of weeks – he may swing round, a turn that will be reflected in intensified military activity, much as we are seeing over this weekend. 4. Arafat is quite capable of declaring a temporary truce or some similar step that will hold water only long enough to buy him his ticket to the White House. The fighting will then drag on at different levels, lulls alternating with flare-ups. Attempts will be made to ascribe the outbreaks to dissenting Palestinian groups or extremists. But the Americans and the Israelis will come to realize that the same people as before, Arafat and his cohorts, are fanning the flames and have never departed from the course they initiated in September 2000.

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