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June 1998
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MER - Washington - 6/15:

There is a growing desperation in the Arafat regime.

Arafat keeps promising Statehood, but each agreement he signs makes subjugation the reality and true independence less and less possible. The latest steps Arafat has been manipulated to agree to amazingly legitimate Israel's system of apartheid-style "by-pass" roads, and thus the settlements they lead to, while   agreeing that the Americans will actually pay for them!

Arafat keeps promises serious reforms, but all he ever does is cosmetic while keeping in place the main sources of political and financial corruption. He refuses, for insistance, to fire Nabil Shaath, the man at the top of the corruption pyramid, even though the Palestinian Legislative Assembly has called for his indictment.

The Americans keep doing what they can to prop up their man Arafat as well. The CIA is now intimately involved with the regime providing it intelligence information on the opposition and helping infiltrate and intimidate Palestinian society at every left. And the Israeli/Jewish lobby is helping as well. None other than Assistant Secretary of State Stuart Eizenstat, long associated with Israeli causes, has been visiting with Arafat of late promising that the Americans will raise still more money for his regime. No doubt behind the scenes the Americans are helping to make sure the Legislative Assembly will be bought off or co-opted one way or another.

This article from "The Guardian" explains some of the current manueverings:



By David Sharrock in Jerusalem


["The Guardian", 6/15]:

The militant Islamist party Hamas, which violently opposes the Middle East peace process, said yesterday that it had turned down an invitation from Yasser Arafat to join his cabinet.

But it said it would meet him in Gaza tomorrow, the day on which its spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, is expected back from a three-month tour of Arab countries. Sheikh Yassin  has been gathering support for his opposition to the moribund Palestinian-Israeli interim peace agreement reached in Oslo in 1993.

Aides close to Mr Arafat denied that Hamas had been offered cabinet posts, saying the invitation was to review the present situation.

Hamas, which has rejected previous offers to join the Palestinian Authority, boycotted the Palestinian elections in 1996. Its military arm has made several devastating suicide attacks on Israeli targets.

A Hamas official, Abu Shanab, said he welcomed the talks with Mr Arafat. "I consider it as a positive initiative from the authority to consult with the opposition."

But he added: "The position in Hamas is not to participate in any government or parliament as long as the current situation is tied and controlled by the restrictions of Oslo and other agreements which have not fulfilled the ambitions to liberate all of Palestine."

Last week Mr Arafat agreed at a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee to reshuffle his cabinet, which exercises self-rule powers in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

The Palestinian legislative council gave Mr Arafat until today to reform his administration, accused of corruption and misrule, or face a no-confidence vote. Mr Arafat asked it to delay the vote for 10 days while he opened broad talks on a new cabinet.

Earlier this week a senior PLO official said all Palestinian political groups, including Hamas, would be consulted.

The attempted rapprochement with Hamas could signal an attempt by Mr Arafat to neutralise the growing challenge to his authority by Sheikh Yassin, who was freed from an Israeli jail last year in exchange for the release of two Mossad agents captured in Jordan.

But it may be no more than another sign of how much he has been weakened by the collapse of the peace talks, frozen in March last year when Israel began building the controversial Jewish settlement Har Homa near Jerusalem.

A reconciliation with Hamas would complicate Mr Arafat's dealings with Israel and the United States, which have been pressing him to crack down on militant groups to help restart the peace process.

Mr Arafat is in a bind, because the Palestinian electorate's support for Hamas among has risen as the peace crisis has deepened.

Relations between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have been badly strained since Muhi al-Din Sharif, the chief bombmaker of Hamas' military wing, died in a car explosion in March.

The authority blamed his death on a power struggle in the movement and Mr Arafat's police arrested many Hamas members.

At the weekend about 100 local Hamas leaders staged a sit-in demanding the release of a party spokesman, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who was jailed in April when he criticised Mr Arafat's government.

He was charged with endangering national security. The Palestine supreme court said last week that he should be released for lack of evidence, but the Palestinian security forces usually ignore such rulings unless the release is authorised by Mr Arafat.




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