The Palestinian Angle

According to debkafile‘s Palestinians sources, the imminent US strike against Iraq and its ultimatum to Syria are making the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat extremely jumpy. He is doing some hard thinking about his next steps and in what direction he should be steering his Palestinian Authority and his confrontation with Israel. The Americans have struck very close to home. The Damascus-based Palestinian organizations targeted by the US for breakup are all members of Arafat’s own Palestinian Liberation Front – the PLO. After the US demand of Assad, Arafat is uncomfortably tensed for a similar American ultimatum. He can expect to face an uncompromising demand to detain or extradite to the United States activists of pro-Syrian Palestinian groups and leaders and operations chiefs of the Hamas and Jihad Islami – not to mention the Hizballah cells they harbor in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Non-compliance could carry the stiff penalty of having his Tanzim militia and presidential guard, Force 17, designated terrorist groups and therefore targeted by America’s international anti-terror offensive.
Aware of the threat hanging over his head, Arafat has suddenly changed his tune. Instead of giving the Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres a farcical runaround over a rendezvous, Arafat is now practically begging to be allowed to meet Peres. If a senior Israeli official is prepared to sit down and talk to him, Arafat thinks he can argue he is no terrorist and does not deserve American ultimatums.
The Moslem clergy is meanwhile getting set to undermine the US-led alliance for military action. The Supreme Islamic Religious Council of Jordan published an edict today, forbidding any Moslem faithful to take part in the “unbelievers war” against fellow Moslems. Similar edicts are to be expected in other Arab states.

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