Arafat Lashes Out at U.S. over Jerusalem Law
October 02, 2002
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By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Palestinian President Yasser
Arafat won temporary reprieve from U.S.-backed reforms
demanded by his parliament and took the offensive on
Wednesday against a new U.S. law seen as backing
Israel's claim to Jerusalem.
"This decision is a catastrophe that Muslims and Christians
should not let pass in silence," Arafat said about the law that took effect on Monday
and requires the U.S. government to list Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in official
"I am asking the American administration and the American president to stop this,"
Arafat said in his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, scene of a 10-day
Israeli siege that ended on Sunday under pressure from the United States.
The new legislation drew sharp condemnation from the Arab League and key U.S.
ally Saudi Arabia at a time when Washington faces an uphill struggle to convince
Arab states to back possible U.S. military action against Iraq.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war,
as capital of a future state in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel regards all of Jerusalem
as its capital, a claim not recognized internationally.
Arafat on Tuesday won the backing of his influential Fatah faction for a three-week
delay in appointing an interim cabinet and support for his opposition to the idea of
naming a prime minister to assume some of his powers.
Arafat, whose 21-member cabinet quit in September to avoid a showdown with
lawmakers when it appeared he would lose a vote of confidence in the
reform-minded Palestinian Legislative Council, was to have appointed new ministers
by the end of last month.
The United States, the main Middle East peace broker, has demanded the
Palestinians choose new leaders "not compromised by terror" before talks on
statehood can resume.
PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS SET FOR JANUARY
Arafat, who has denied Israeli accusations he has helped orchestrate anti-Israeli
violence in the two-year-old Palestinian uprising for independence, has scheduled
presidential and parliamentary elections for January 20.
Fatah officials said the faction, which traditionally backs Arafat, was against an
immediate appointment of a prime minister because it would play into Israeli
attempts to weaken him.
"This idea has been canceled from our dictionary. This is not the right time," Fatah
member Sakher Habash told Reuters.
Palestinian fury over the U.S. law identifying Jerusalem as Israel's capital was
mirrored across the Arab world, which accuses Washington of pro-Israel bias and
of giving Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a free hand to hit Palestinians in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip.
"This leads to destroying the efforts made to return the Arab-Israeli conflict to the
proper political track and maintains the occupation, the resistance, the tension and
the violence," Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said.
Saudi Arabia voiced concern it would embolden Israel to toughen its policies against
While the Arab world seethed, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Israel
must not hamper a U.S. drive against Iraq. "We must give priority to the United
States to carry out its policy," he told Israel Radio.
His comments strengthened the view that Israel might have to temper its military
moves against the Palestinian uprising while Washington pursues plans to oust Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein.
PRO-IRAQ LEADER ARRESTED
On Wednesday, Israeli police detonated safely a bomb found in a bag at a petrol
station in the northern town of Afula, believed to have been planted by Palestinian
Palestinian sources said Israeli troops demolished the home of a family in the West
Bank village of Tammoun whose sons were believed to have links to the militant
group, Islamic Jihad.
In a move against a pro-Iraqi faction in the West Bank, Israeli undercover forces in
Ramallah detained Rakad Salem, a local leader of the Baghdad-based Arab
Israeli security sources said Salem was responsible for distributing money sent from
Iraq for Palestinians wounded or killed in the uprising.
The group's support includes allocations of up to $25,000 to the families of
Palestinian suicide bombers, payments which Israel says helps encourage more
youths to join the ranks of the bombers who have killed scores of Israelis.
At least 1,575 Palestinians and 602 Israelis have been killed since the Palestinian
revolt erupted in September 2000 after peace talks froze.