The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, inventor and refiner of the Islamic suicide terror weapon, left a time bomb ticking away six years after his mysterious death in Paris. His private archive is being fought over now in a quietly desperate tug-o'-war, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources revealed in its January 15 issue.
Arafat had few heroes aside from himself, but his chosen tutors were the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu (who was executed by his own people in 1989), and security chief, Gen. Ion Mihai Padepa. Bucharest was one of the few places in the world where the Palestinian terror chief felt he could go to ground safely while also indulging his unusual sexual habits. From Ceaucescu and Pacepa and their intelligence apparatus, the DIE, Arafat learned that the secrets of world figures and their private lives could be a primary source of immense political power.
Therefore, during his 36 years as head of the Palestinian movement, the PLO Arafat used the Palestinian spy agencies he controlled to methodically collect data and build up dossiers not only on Israeli, Arab and Muslim figures of the day but also a host of world leaders, politicians, generals, economic czars, high-tech executives and their families. Some are still in official positions.
From 1966, while pioneering airliner hijackings and other violent practices for promoting the Palestinian cause, he secretly amassed and collated this material, helped by an army of assistants under his personal management. This world-class international terrorist undoubtedly used some of its incriminating content to lever himself onto the world stage as a respected figure.
When Israel allowed him to set himself up on the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1994, under the Oslo Framework Peace Accords, Arafat decided to leave his secret archive behind at his place of exile in Tunis to make sure it stayed out of Israeli hands.
After his death, its management passed to the veteran PLO personnel chief Abdel Abu Maher Ghneim, who was in charge of the various Palestinian factions' terrorist personnel and their funding. Ghneim was against the Oslo accords and preferred exile to joining the relocated Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.
That was until August, 2009, when the Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas prevailed on him to accept the appointment of senior deputy to the PA chairman and his heir apparent. The archive manager's move to Ramallah gave Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali his chance. As soon as the Palestinian had gone, Ben Ali sent his secret service to seize the priceless Arafat archive and bar access to any Palestinian official or visitor.
During December, Abbas made several phone calls to talk the Tunisian President round into releasing the Arafat archive for transfer to Ramallah. Ben Ali was unmoved, even when Abbas explained emotionally that it was part of the Arafat legacy and the bedrock of Palestinian independence.
In early January, a high-ranking Palestinian delegation went to Tunis to offer Ben Ali a compromise: They would be allowed to photocopy the secret archive documents while leaving the originals in Tunis.
This too, the Tunisian ruler refused. But by then, he had found a legalistic cloak for his position: Yasser Arafat's widow, Suha, was the only legitimate claimant to any Arafat property, he told his disappointed visitors.
Ben Ali had done his homework.
He knew about the deal Abbas had cut with the widow in 2005 after a year of interminable wrangling over Arafat's assets. Suha was awarded the colossal stipend of $80 million per annum under a contract with the Palestinian Authority that was contingent on her complying with two conditions: She must never divulge any information about her dead husband's life and never leave her place of exile on the island of Malta.
Arafat's widow agreed that if she breached those conditions, she would forfeit the funds held by her and Palestinian Authority officials in a joint bank account.
Therefore, as the Tunisian president knew very well, Suha Arafat would never travel to Tunis to claim her inheritance, including the precious secret archive.