Israel Prepares For Arafat's "Walk" or Copter to Bethlehem
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Israel Prepares For Arafat's "Walk" or Copter to Bethlehem

December 23, 2001


"Arab support for the Palestinians is getting weaker and weaker" Arafat-appointed negotiator Saeb Erekat.

MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 12/23/2001: It's even possible Arafat could tomorrow win this round in what has evolved into a kind of personal Sharon-Arafat political wrestling match. We're all anxiously waiting to see just how this drama is going to unfold Monday; and whether Arafat can even approach the political skill and timing of Mahatma Gandhi. But even should Arafat prevail one way or another in this round, overall things are pretty desperate for the Palestinians collectively and for Arafat personally. The maximum "State" Arafat's group is now "negotiating" with the Israelis and Americans is actually no real State at all...just a consolidation and reorganization of Israel's increasingly repressive and bloody military occupation. And the bottom line is that everything for the Palestinian people is considerably worse today than was the case before the Arafat crowd "returned" to take charge, symbolized by the greater-than-ever "closures", everywhere the Apartheid-like restrictions, and the black-masked "Palestinian police" thugs Arafat now sends to arrest and lock up on behalf of his CIA and Israeli patrons even as he spars with his long-time nemesis Sharon.


[Arutz 7, 12/23 - (Right-wing Israeli news service)] - The Cabinet decided last night, via a telephone vote, to turn down PLO chief Yasser Arafat's request to participate in the Christmas ceremonies in Bethlehem this week. The ministers resolved that only if the PA takes immediate action to arrest terrorists such as the murderers of Minister Rehavam Ze'evi, dismantle Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and stop incitement, would he be permitted to leave.

Prime Minister Sharon was against granting Arafat's request, but when he saw that he was in the minority in the three-man mini-security cabinet - Ministers Peres and Ben-Eliezer wanted to let Arafat go - he determined that the decision would be made in the full Cabinet. The Labor party ministers will convene today to discuss their latest defeat within the government. In light of their dwindling public support, their political options are quite limited.

Jordan had prepared a helicopter with which to fly Arafat from Ramallah to Bethlehem. Arafat said that he would not be prevented from fulfilling his desire to take part in the Christian ceremony, and would walk if he had to. It's only about 22 kilometers from Ramallah to Bethlehem, with Jerusalem along the way. IDF forces are preparing for this eventuality, and particularly for a scenario in which a mob of Arabs will accompany Arafat to the Ramah checkpoint, between Ramallah and Jerusalem, hoping to initiate a staged clash with Israeli forces in front of television cameras. The army has sent reinforcements to all checkpoints in the southern Ramallah area.


Today, once again, Israel's media featured a diplomatic plan apparently cooked up by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and the PA's Abu Ala. The plan calls for the establishment of a PLO state on the 42% of Yesha that the PA currently controls, after a ceasefire of 6-8 weeks, to be followed by two years of final status negotiations. In response, at least two government ministers - Benny Elon and Tzachi HaNegbi - demand an end to Peres' tenure in the government. Minister Elon told Arutz-7 this morning that the government's policy forbids negotiations with the PA under fire, and that Prime Minister Sharon promised a number of times that the matter of a Palestinian state would be brought before the Cabinet before any negotiations. "Peres is acting against these two principles," Elon said, "and he must therefore be fired." HaNegbi called on Peres to resign of his own accord.

Others say, however, that Sharon is the "guilty" party in this concoction, and that he knew of Peres' talks. MK Michael Kleiner (Herut) said, "The right-wing ministers should stop laying the blame on Peres, as Ariel Sharon himself came out in favor of a Palestinian state." Housing Minister Natan Sharansky said, "This new plan is dangerous, and Sharon must stop it at once. If it is implemented, it will be another scene in the Oslo deception process... They're making the same mistake again - trying to turn Arafat from a terrorist into a statesman."

In response to Peres' secret diplomatic plan, and reports that Prime Minister Sharon approved the talks, Sharon's office released an official statement dismissing both out of hand. "The very raising of such a proposal is critically harmful to Israel," the statement said. "The entire government decided that there would be no negotiations with the Palestinian Authority before wanted terrorists and their aides were arrested, illegal weapons were collected, and the terrorist infrastructures were dismantled."

The Yesha Council issued a statement saying that the only way for Sharon to dispel suspicions that he was a party to the plan would be for him to fire Peres.

Women in Green protested in Jerusalem against talk of a PLO state this morning and amassed signatures on petitions in Zion Square. WiG co-founder Nadia Matar said that the organization plans to reach all cities and sites where there have been terrorist attacks and garner support for their cause, "one each week. The public is enthusiastic and supports us. Next week, we will be in Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv." Twenty-two people were killed in the #5 bus attack on Dizengoff St. in October 1994, and 13 more were murdered by a suicide terrorist there in March 1996...


The Arab League, which convened in Cairo at the end of last week, decided to consider proposals to reinstate the boycott on Israel. Syria went further, demanding that Arab countries break off all relations with Israel. This was the extent of their anti-Israel stance, however, and practical decisions were not made. The PA is understandably upset at the lack of support shown them by their Arab brethren. Its media reported quite negatively on the conference, claiming that the Arab countries caved in to American and British pressure. "Arab support for the Palestinians is getting weaker and weaker," said the PA's Saeb Erekat.


PRESS RELEASE December 23 2001

"We have tried to help the Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem this year, despite Arafat's politization of this holiday season", stated Minister of Tourism Binyamin Elon today.

Minister Elon has spearheaded efforts to reconcile differences and allow freedom of worship for Christians and Jews in Bethlehem, the former at such locations as the Church of the Nativity and the latter at 'Kever Rachel', site of Rachel's tomb. He met with U.S. Ambassador Kurtzer this month, asking him to broker a message to the PA that Israel is interested in allowing Christian access to holy sites in Bethlehem, particularly in the upcoming holiday season.

"Israel has always refrained from political action with regard to religious rituals, and we respect all religions. Arafat's attempt to enter Bethlehem is political pressure on a religious issue, and therefore I support the Government's decision to prevent his arrival in Bethlehem," said Elon.

Elon points out that "the Government of Israel and the Tourism Ministry have invested much effort and monies to promote tourism to Israel and the PA. Arafat has destroyed much of the goodwill that has been achieved between Jews and Christians, on purpose and with malice. The millions invested by Christians in Bethlehem and around Israel, have become null and void.

"I would like to be sure that the Government of Israel will invest great efforts to be sure that all Christian rituals within Israel will be conducted smoothly and without interruption", the Minister said.

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December 2001


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