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MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 8/20/00:

Robert Fisk, in his article published yesterday in The Independent (see below), is right, of course...he nearly always is.  But the entire situation for the Palestinian people is actually quite a bit worse than is outlined in this article:

* It's multi-billions, not millions, that the U.S. and Israel are now using as bribes; and those who will get control of this pot of gold are salivating at getting their hands on it -- including de factor Prime Minister Nabil Sha'ath, the Hashemites in Jordan, Mubarak and cronies in Egypt, and other payees who are working to further U.S. and Israeli designs for the region.

*  In exchange for what remains in reality autonomous control, not real sovereignty, over less than 20% of what was Palestine when Arafat was born, the Israelis are cleverly using the concept of "separation" to cut off the great bulk of the Palestinian homeland even from visits by the great majority of Palestinians who use to live there and use to own the lands and homes which are now Israeli.

*  Legal and on-the-ground restrictions Arafat is being bribed and coerced to sign in order to get the billions as well as continuing American CIA help will at best mean the Palestinian State will be deformed and paralyzed, if not stillborn.

*  The Israelis are insisting that in addition to everything else, in order to get their support for all this money and the very kind of Palestinian State they themselves have always wanted, Arafat must agree the "conflict is ended", thus delegitimizing all others who continue to struggle for their rights that otherwise are endorsed in numerous Security Council resolutions.

*  The Israeli Army, the CIA, the Shinbet, the Muhabarat, and the dozen+ Arafat secret police agencies will remain the controllers in Palestinian populated areas; and the threat to cut Arafat and Palestinian "government" off from this support and from yearly billions will always keep the Palestinian leadership in a straight-jacket at best, in collaborator status at worst.

The Palestinian people use to ostracize and punish those who sold Palestinian land to the Israelis.  Now it turns out the remnants of the once PLO are the biggest land-salesman and collaborators of all time.  No wonder the Palestinian Legislative Assembly demanded Nabil Sha'ath's removal and trial for corruption a few years ago.  Instead, Arafat and the CIA further castrated the Assembly and further elevated Sha'ath, at American insistence, to even more power and authority precisely so he could help manuever Arafat into this dastardly situation.


                          By Robert Fisk in Beirut

How many countries do you have to visit to declare a state? Does an albatross
follow Chairman Yasser Arafat to Iran, France, South Africa, China, Russia,
Indonesia, Japan?

There were times, after he returned this week, that one was tempted to ask
whether Arafat the "terrorist" -- the pre-Oslo, pre-"peace" Arafat -- would
have garnered more support in the Third World than the 1993 "peace" partner
of the White House lawn.  The West may rest assured. The Russians, the
Indonesians -- even the Egyptians -- have understood the equations of what we
call the peace "process".  Mr Arafat should not declare a state on 13
September and, almost certainly, will not do so.

"Why does he tour the world to gather support for his 'independent' state
before organising the sovereign country which he wishes to rule?" a
Palestinian refugee official asked yesterday.  "Any normal ruler would seek
his people's support for such a step before he announced independence." So --
in the destitute, broken world of the Palestinian diaspora -- goes the
argument. Why did Mr Arafat need to travel to Asia to announce that he might
"reassess" his declaration of a state?

In the Palestinian underworld, the answers seem quite clear. Aware that he
would not receive recognition for his "independent" state that he promised
the Palestinians on his triumphal return from the doomed Camp David talks, Mr
Arafat decided to undertake a world tour to prove to his people that the
declaration of statehood could not be made on the date he promised.  But,
rather than admit that his promise was a lie, he preferred to allow the
presidents and kings to urge "moderation" and "restraint" -- which is what the
US and, of course, Israel, wanted.

The details of the Camp David talks remain officially secret, but Mr Arafat's
concessions -- for which read, capitulation -- are obvious. The documents
which leaked out showed that he accepted the presence of the Israeli army in
the Jordan valley and the right of Israel on Palestinian land to use its army
when it feared a danger to the State of Israel.

There would be no Arab army -- neither Palestinian nor any other kind -- in
the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli air force would have the right to fly
over the skies of "independent" Palestine. There would be Israeli early
warning stations on Palestinian territory. On the ground, the Israelis would
continue to hold not less than 5 per cent of the land, including the
settlements which cut the West Bank off from Jerusalem and which also cut the
West Bank in two.

So much for sovereignty. But a state?  Gone would be American support and
funds.  Gone would be any American "leverage" over Israel. Forgotten would be
any future negotiations over Jerusalem and the "right of return" of 3 million
refugees. Abandoned would be any hope of European support for a state.

The US and Israel believe that a postponement of talks on Jerusalem and the
"right of return" is the only way forward. And -- aware that he and his
acolytes will lose the millions of dollars of US and European support -- Mr
Arafat is in no mood to commit financial suicide. "We will declare a
Palestinian state" became, in Indonesia,  a determination to "reassess" the
declaration. A visit to Moscow received a cold response from President
Vladimir Putin, who urged "further thought" before such a step was taken.

Of course, this is not just about American pressure on its world allies. Even
Egypt refused to accept a negation of the Palestinian demand for sovereignty
over the Muslim holy landmarks in Jerusalem. Everyone knows that postponement
-- delay, suspension -- of Mr Arafat's demand for a capital in Jerusalem is an
incendiary topic.  But a deferment of statehood might still be possible.

Thus, Mr Arafat has called for a meeting of the Palestine National Council
next month. In the meantime, the Palestinian "minister" for the economy has
warned that the Palestinians could not withstand an Israeli economic blockade
-- one of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's threats -- without starvation.

"If Arafat wanted to declare a state, he would have done it and then sought
international support," said an official of the Democratic Front for the
Liberation of Palestine yesterday.  "Instead, he travels round the world to
see if he'd get support before he consults his own people."  And so, all eyes
will be upon the meeting of the Council, which must surely urge "moderation"..
"And then he can say that the democratically elected representatives of his
own people have urged restraint. This will mean postponement of statehood. So
much for the 13th September deadline."

Cynical, perhaps. But not without reason. With the Americans already calling
for a second summit "peace" conference in November, the Palestinian chairman
can insist on a very final last chance for the "peace of the brave"; and
postpone the "state" which he has already declared twice before. The Arafat
world tour may have looked impressive. It may also have been part of the
window-dressing for another Palestinian "concession". Stand by, then, for the
postponement of the very last deadline.

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