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ARAFAT - THE DAY AFTER

Palestinian PM Abu Ala Telephones Ariel Sharon To Apprise Him Of Arafat’s Condition

Israeli Intelligence Sources: ‘Senior Palestinian Officials Say Privately That Arafat’s Policy of Terrorism Has Been An Utter Failure’

Analyst David Essing: ‘Israeli People Will Be Watching To See If Arafat’s Successors Will Be Ready To Stop Terrorism and Make Peace’

Yasser Arafat

Could the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be on a new threshold? Hopefully turning from terrorism and bloodshed to negotiation and peace? Or might the Palestinians be headed for a bloody power struggle with the extremists gaining the upper hand? This is the question Israelis are now asking if and when a new Palestinian leadership succeeds the reign of Yasser Arafat. In what is viewed as a conciliatory step, Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Ala has telephoned Ariel Sharon to apprise him of the situation. The Israeli Prime Minister offered all possible medical aid.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

'Will Israel finally have a peace partner?’ Or after Arafat’s departure, will Hamas and the terrorists win a bloody power struggle plunging the area into even greater chaos? David Essing reporting:

There is little sympathy in Israel for the fate of Yasser Arafat. The Palestinian leader is held responsible for the murder and maiming of thousands of Israeli children, women and men. Arafat is considered to be Israel’s ‘Osama bin Laden’ Both the left and right wing have agreed on at least one issue; as long as Arafat pulls the strings it will be impossible to end the war and make peace. In Prime Minister Sharon’s office, they’re in a ‘watch, wait and see’ mode.

Mukata

Months ago, after 9/11 Israeli intelligence sources revealed that moderate Palestinian officials privately criticized Arafat’s policy of terrorism and violence as having harmed the Palestinian cause. The same officials again say privately the world no longer tolerates terrorism and that was why Sharon could keep Arafat holed up in his Mukata headquarters.

Now in the midst of the uncertainty over Arafat’s state of health, Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Ala has telephoned Ariel Sharon to apprise him of the situation. Sharon replied that Israel would facilitate all medical aide and would allow Arafat to be flown abroad for treatment if necessary. Palestinian sources have described the telephone conversation as being ‘polite and in a good spirit’. It was the first direct contact between Sharon and Abu Ala for months; Israeli officials say Arafat would never allow the current Palestinian PM to do anything. In fact, former PM Abu Mazen quit because of Arafat.

Sharon himself never agreed to meet Arafat; in fact, Sharon would have expelled Arafat from the territories long ago, but the U.S. never gave the green light. More recently, after bombing of two buses in Be'er-Sheva, the Prime Minister spoke of the day when Arafat ‘would also get what he deserves’; Israel executed two Hamas leaders Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Rantizi in targeted killings.

Arafat's Work (Photo: Amit Shabi)

‘The day after Arafat’ - it could either way. The Palestinians are talking about a democratic process, first a leadership triumvirate and elections. Although this is one upbeat scenario there is another, a bloody power struggle. Arafat has always used the various terror organizations as an instrument of his policy; all the way back to the start of the Oslo process with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who brought Arafat and company from Tunis and armed the Palestinian police force which was supposed to enforce law and order. The deal was to end the violence; the dispute would be resolved by peaceful means only as Israelis and Palestinians developed good neighbor relations. But Arafat negotiated with Israel to make gains and when he didn’t get what he wanted he ‘winked’ at the terrorists to force Israel to give in. Moreover, until this very day Arafat has never accepted the idea of the independent Jewish state of Israel. Nor did Arafat ever give up his ‘Jihad’ holy war and one million Shahied suicide bombers. And it is not only the fanatic Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but Arafat’s own Tanzeem group which wages terrorism day and night at the bidding of the ‘President’ of the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli intelligence sources speak of anarchy and chaos in the Palestinian areas; war lords and their gangs run the roost often abusing the local population as they carry on the war against Israel and invite Israeli counter-strikes. In addition, there are the more powerful security king pins: Muhammad Dahlan in Gaza and Jabril Rajoub on the West Bank. This is the Arafat legacy which will face moderate Palestinian leaders who may wish to finally negotiate an end to violence and bloodshed and establish a Palestinian state finally willing to live side by side at peace with Israel. The stakes are high because the alternative for both Palestinians and Israelis will be as grim as ever.

PROSPECTS & UNILATERAL DISENAGGEMENT - Even if moderate Palestinian leaders wish to halt the violence, can they? In addition to the local Hamas, Jihad and the others, there is now Iran, Hizballah and even al Qaida in the act; in fact, they stage most of the terror attacks in Israel, the territories and also abroad, such as in Taba, Egypt this month. Will the Palestinian Authority be able to enforce law and order with its fractured security forces? Good intentions will not be enough and if there is a match-up with the terrorists, the outcome is in doubt. Therefore, Israel will continue its plans for unilaterally withdrawing from the Gaza Strip - the mechanism is already in place. However, if it becomes clear over the months ahead that there is a genuine Palestinian peace partner, Sharon could be expected to negotiate the evacuation. Meanwhile, Israel will continue its counter-terror campaign as long as the Palestinians keep trying to blitz Israeli towns like Sderot with Qassam rockets. The makings of a deal could be an end to the Israeli strikes if the new Palestinian leaders dismantle the terrorists. Without question, this could also lead to an Israeli easing of the restrictive measures such as roadblocks and curfews so necessary and effective in stopping the suicide bombers.

The Palestinian political ‘fog’ has triggered Israeli calls all the way from halting the Gaza disengagement to launching a new peace initiative. This is not likely to happen… Ariel Sharon can be expected to eventually make some carefully calibrated gestures to bolster those on the Palestinian side ready to move toward his declared goal of peace and security.

David Essing

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