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June 1998
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MER - Washington - 9 June:

A number of important political events in what we have taken to calling "doubly-occupied Palestine" are upcoming in the next few days:

1) Will the Israelis allow the head of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, to return to Gaza after his whirlwind triumphant tour through the Arab and Muslim worlds? Betting is yes, because they fear he is more powerful out than in. Betting is also that they may not let him out of "Gaza Ghetto" again, once they get him back. For all the hoopla about Palestinian "rule" in Gaza, even this small area remains 30% directly occupied by Israelis while the entire strip area remains surrounded by an electrified fence which for most Palestinians is the equivalent of imprisonment.

The matter of Yassin is so important that it has been debated by the Israeli Cabinet in recent days, with strong opinions expressed on both sides. The political types want him kept out; fearing his growing popularity among ordinary Palestinians. The intelligence types want him let back in, "to stay" this time. The Arafat crowd hardly knows what to do as their influence and credibility continue to decline and only the guns and money supplied by the Americans and Israel keep them in power.

2) 15 June. That's the day the Palestinian "Legislative Assembly" has scheduled the first ever "no confidence" vote against Arafat.

About a year ago the Assembly released a report showing terrible corruption and worse by Arafat's hand-chosen "Palestinian Authorities" "Ministers". Hundreds of millions of dollars were found to be "unaccounted for". Nearly a third of the monies given to the "PA" since it came to power with American/European and Israeli support seem to have been "diverted" or squandered; partly explaining while the Palestinian standard of living has declined some 40% since the Arafat crowd came to take over after the "Oslo" agreement.

At that time the "Assembly" gave the "Chairman" 30 days to fire his "Cabinet" and urged that three "Ministers", including Israel's favorite, Nabil Shaath, be brought to trial. Arafat promised this and that as he always does when boxed in. But nothing much was done. Shaath was not only not brought to trial, nor fired, but his status and authority have only increased; and he made a point of holding a ostentatiously lavish wedding in four separate locations, one just for his Israeli friends.

The Assembly has caved, time after time.

Since then one of the few remaining dignified Palestinian leaders - Haider Abdul Shaafi - resigned his seat in the Assembly, insisting this was the only way he could demonstrate the Assembly's impotence and hypocrisy. He had tried to get others to resign with him; but most preferred to keep their special passes, cars, monthly salaries, and other perks.

15 June. Likelihood: Another cave-in from the "Legislators".




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