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MER - WASHINGTON - 17 March:

 "...there have been many reports that he (Arafat) is
 very tired. The trembling in his lips is weaker, and
 at meetings he is quieter and more introverted than
 in the past. He stares a lot and it is not clear that
 he is attentive.  His outbursts of anger and his
 yelling are becoming more frequent."

                 "YOU" THE POPE

Israeli's Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau has announced he will call the Pope of Rome "You" during his visit to Israel and would refuse to use any other titles.

Meanwhile, Israel's Foreign Ministry indicated that Israeli government officials would refer to the Pope with the title of "His Holiness" because "that is what he calls himself... We will use it as diplomatic protocol and simple courtesy."


It's interesting though that Israeli government officials refuse to refer to "Palestinian Authority Chairman" Yasser Arafat as "President", though that is what he calls himself.  Moreover, when Arafat is in Washington, a new term has caught on -- though Washington is neither as formal nor as precise about these matters.  Here the Palestinian Chairman, Authority, President, is referred to as "The Leader" by some trying to make a clear point. There are other names for the Old Man however, including "Chief" and "Warden" to mention only a few of the less offensive ones.

The Israelis are desperate not only to keep Arafat ticking, but to get him to sign away as many Palestinian rights as possible and to conclude something they will call a "final settlement" regardless of Palestinian terminology.

The same goes for Arafat's possible successors.  In public they say principled and sometimes bellicose things hoping to be believed by the Palestinians masses.  In private they are urging Arafat to "be moderate" and make the agreements with the Israelis that they themselves would hesitate to make and in fact could not make.  Hence the great dangers of the moment as the Israelis and the Americans prepare to cash in with Assad and Arafat as both fade into history.  Read carefully, the following article from the Israeli newspaper "Ha'aretz" suggests part of what is essentially a plot to trap the Middle East in agreements signed off on by Hafez el-Assad and Yassser Arafat (following of course in the wake of King Hussein) while they are down, defeated, confused, and dying.


 Abu Mazen and Abu Ala are the candidates to succeed
 Yasser Arafat. Both are edging Arafat into moderate
 positions so that he will bear the burden of
 concessions to Israel

Ha'aretz - Wednesday, March 15, 2000 - By Danny Rubinstein:
The question of who will succeed Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat
has never been addressed in any Palestinian public forum, and even in their
innermost sanctums, Palestinian politicians are reluctant to discuss it. But
from time to time the issue creeps onto the sidelines of current events.There
are two main candidates: Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the secretary-general of
the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and
Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), the speaker of the Palestinian Authority parliament.
These two have been at Arafat's side as the most senior Palestinian officials
ever since the Palestinian Authority was formed to govern areas of the West
Bank and Gaza. There is no question that Abu Mazen has the best chances. More
senior than Abu Ala, he serves as Arafat's number two man in the PLO, the
Palestinian movement that has higher status in the territories than the PA
government. (The PLO claims to represent the entire Palestinian people, while
the PA represents only the residents of the West Bank and Gaza.)

Most of the leadership, including the heads of the Palestinian security
system, supports Abu Mazen. But it has seemed for some time that Abu Mazen is
being pushed into a corner while Abu Ala's candidacy grows stronger.
Recently, Abu Ala has reappeared at the center of the diplomatic process,
taking part in all the important meetings - a change from the Netanyahu
period, when Abu Ala was barely involved in the talks. At that time, the
explanation was that Abu Ala was serving as speaker of parliament - that is,
the legislative branch - while the diplomatic process was being led by
members of the Palestinian cabinet - members of the executive branch like
Saeb Erekat, Nabil Sha'ath and Yasser Abed Rabbo, who are all subordinate to
Abu Mazen in the PLO.

It turns out, however, that the matter of checks and balances and the
separation of powers is not the strong point of the Palestinian
government,and Abu Ala was once again seen at Arafat's side at the recent
summit meetings. There has also been word of a series of secret meetings he
has held with Israeli figures, with the aim of solving problems that have
come up in the negotiations. In the middle of last week, Arafat brought only
Abu Ala along to the nocturnal meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Barak (along
with his aide Nabil Abu Rudeina). This was the meeting that brought an end to
the current crisis and to the decision to renew the talks in Washington at
the end of this week.

Abu Mazen was not at this important meeting because he was on a visit to the
Scandinavian countries, but in the Palestinian leadership they are saying
that even when he does take part in such meetings his presence carries less
weight than it did in the past.The deepest cut to Abu Mazen's status was
about a year and a half ago in the wake of the Wye Memorandum that was signed
between Netanyahu and Arafat. At the time, there were accusations in the
Palestinian public that Abu Mazen had conceded and had not insisted
sufficiently during the talks on the demand for the release of Palestinian
prisoners. The result was that instead of security prisoners, the Netanyahu
government released Palestinians who had stolen cars and laborers who had
worked in Israel without permits.

Arafat was furious, and Netanyahu claimed that this was in accordance with
the agreement. For the Palestinians, this became a bitter joke and many
people, among them the families of prisoners, came to demonstrate near Abu
Mazen's luxurious new house in Gaza. Abu Mazen thought at the time that the
initiative for the demonstration came from the direction of some of his
fellow members of the leadership, who were taking revenge and inciting
against him. There were also suggestions then that the background to the
affair was a power struggle in the Palestinian upper echelons, where there
are some people who would like to humiliate Abu Mazen in order to damage his
chances of becoming Arafat's heir.

Last month, while the diplomatic process with the Palestinians stagnated, Abu
Ala was heard loud and clear. He declared several times that the Palestinians
will not agree to be prisoners of the Israelis' moods. "We shall unilaterally
bring our police forces into Area B territories if we do not get them back
from Israel," he said. This is an uncharacteristically sharp declaration, and
Abu Ala's colleagues made this clear. At a meeting of the Fatah central
committee, which took place last week, members asked Abu Ala whether he
understood that the significance of his statements was that the Palestinians
intend to enter into violent conflict with Israel, perhaps even to engage in
battle, for control od these areas. After Abu Ala talked tough, Abu Mazen
also decided to speak up. He came out with a statement that the Palestinians
would agree only to a full withdrawal by Israel from all the territories it
occupied in 1967. This, too, is a very tough statement, the likes of which
Abu Mazen had not made in the past.

Some Palestinian politicians raised questions as to whether Abu Mazen is
suitable to head negotiating teams with Israel, because five years ago he had
already agreed to concessions in a draft he formulated with (now Justice
Minister) Yossi Beilin. Throughout, Abu Mazen has repeatedly denied reports
that the draft reflected his position, but many people in the West Bank and
Gaza do not believe him.(The truth, insofar as it can be ascertained, is that
the discussions of the draft agreement were never completed and therefore it
is hard to know to which items in the draft Abu Mazen gave his final
agreement and which he rejected.) In any case, among the Palestinian
leadership there were those who thought that Abu Mazen's statements last week
were an attempt on his part to eradicate his image as someone who makes
cowardly concessions. Despite the tough positions expressed recently by Abu
Ala and Abu Mazen, it cannot be said that the two are competing for the
position of the holder of extreme views in the PA leadership. The opposite is
the case. Both of them have been pushing Arafat to moderate positions

The reason is simple: The main aspiration of the two of them is that Arafat
will complete the permanent status agreement, and sign it, and that they will
not inherit from him the heavy burden of the tangled negotiations. Everyone
in the West Bank and Gaza knows that only Arafat can bear the burden of
concessions to Israel. Only a leader with prestige and power like Arafat -
the symbol of the struggle, the father of modern Palestinian nationalism -
will be able to deal with widespread opposition of the Islamic bloc, the left
fronts and many others who will fight the agreement with all their might. If
Arafat leaves the scene before there is an agreement, there could be such an
uproar in the Palestinian public that no heir will be able to deal with it,
neither Abu Mazen nor Abu Ala. On street corners in the West Bank and Gaza,
people are joking that the problem of the two candidates to succeed Arafat is
that they are sicker than he is. Arafat's health is a rather strange matter.
On the one hand he is continuing at a frantic pace of work, which even young
people would find difficult, and on the other there have been many reports
that he is very tired. The trembling in his lips is weaker, and at meetings
he is quieter and more introverted than in the past. He stares a lot and it
is not clear that he is attentive. His outbursts of anger and his yelling are
becoming more frequent. Not only the candidates to succeed him are wishing
him health so that he will sign the final status agreement.

Many Israelis also think that if Arafat is not there, we will have to wait
many more years until there is a leader of his stature, who will have the
power and the ability to bring the process to a successful conclusion

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