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December 11, 1992 - Image 33

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-12-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Background

`Mr. Palestine' A Has Been?

DOUGLAS DAVIS

'

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT

After 25 years,
Yassir Arafat's
power is slipping
from his.grasp.

y

assir Arafat is on the
verge of making
right-wing Israeli
dreams come true. He
appears to be losing not only
his cool but also his grip on a
movement that he has kept
in the international
spotlight for the past
quarter-century.
Palestinian negotiators
from the territories continue
to make public obeisance to
"Mister Palestine," but pri-
vately the cracks are beginn-
ing to show. One full year of
head-to-head talks with
their Israeli interlocutors
has provided the Palestin-
ians with a valuable lesson
in "the art of the possible,"
while Chairman Arafat still
clings to impossible dreams.,
Palestinian feathers were
visibly ruffled last week
when they were compelled to
turn down an Israeli offer of
full or partial control over 92
percent of the West Bank
and Gaza Strip because
Tunis dictated they could
not accept anything less
than total control over all
the territories.
There was consternation,
too, over an interview
Chairman Arafat gave to an
Israeli news magazine in
which he flatly rejected the
idea of a five-year interim
period of autonomy and gen-
eral elections for a repre-
sentative Palestinian body
in the territories, two issues
that were embodied in the
framework for talks before
the Madrid conference last
year.
Israeli Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin, who spent
three days in London last
week, has been quick to spot
the tensions and has worked
assiduously to exacerbate
them. He has wasted no op-
portunity to drive home the
message that the PLO leader
is the principal obstacle to
peace; that Israel can do
business with Palestinians
in the territories — even,
perhaps, with pragmatic
PLO elements in Tunis.
"If we say we will
negotiate with Arafat, there
is no chance whatsoever that
there will be an agreement
because he will stress what
will serve him, not the Pa-
lestinians in the territories,"
Mr. Rabin declared.
"For the first time, the Pa-
lestinians in the territories

are in the lead of the
struggle of the Palestin-
ians," he said. "I believe
most of them are much more
pragmatic than Arafat.
Arafat aspires to everything
or nothing. This is not the
way of thinking of many Pa-
lestinians in the territories
and, I believe, of some Pales-
tinians in Tunis."
Mr. Rabin went out of his
way to insist that he would
not back away from the two-
stage formula for a Palestin-
ian settlement — agreement
on a five-year interim period
of autonomy as a prelude to
an accord on the final status
of the territories.
"The Palestinians must
realize that the interim
agreement gives them what
they never have been offered
by any of the countries in
control of territories in
which they live," said Mr.
Rabin. "Jordan and Egypt
did not offer them what we
are offering when they were
in occupation of the West
Bank and Gaza."
He also took the oppor-
tunity to rule out the pro-
spect of an independent Pa-
lestinian state: "I believe

Arafat may be
forced to pull out
of the peace talks
to placate Arab
hardliners.

there will be some sort of Pa-
lestinian entity that they
feel is their own. There are
many options that today
might look like a dream.
Perhaps a complex of con-
federation with Israel, the
Palestinians and Jordan.
Why not?"
Then, obliquely warning
that a deal with Syria would
pull the rug from under the
Palestinian feet, he noted:
"The core of the issues fac-
ing Israel is the elimination
of war. We have not had war
for the longest period in our
history directly as a result of
the peace treaty between
Israel and Egypt. If we have
peace with Syria, it will
eliminate for all practical
purposes the danger of a
classic Arab-Israeli war."
Chairman Arafat himself

A foreshadowing?

has been betraying signs of
desperation, speaking bitter-
ly and, for the first time,
openly about his disputes
with Arab and Islamic
leaders, as well as Palestin-
ian radicals, who now sense
blood in the water.
The PLO leader, who ac-
knowledged he still may be
suffering the effects of an air
crash earlier this year,
vented some of his spleen —
and offered a fascinating
glimpse of his psychological
state in a rambling, often-
contradictory interview with
the London-based Palestin-
ian daily al Quds al Arabi
last week.
He blamed his problems on
a conspiracy which he be-
lieves has been manifest by
the determination of Iran to
strengthen the fundamenta-
list Hamas movement and
create a coalition of religious
fundamentalists and polit-
ical radicals under Syrian
auspices in order to destroy
the Palestinian cause.
"I want to address a ques-
tion to every Palestinian,"
he told the newspaper. "Is
this not the hundredth at-
tempt to eliminate the Pa-
lestinians from the Middle
East equation? Are these
organizations participating
in the international con-
spiracy to wipe out the PLO?

-

-

There is an attempt by Iran,
Arab and foreign circles to
stir up internal problems in
order to strike at the Pales-
tinians and facilitate an
agreement with the Israelis.
"But," he boasted, "in one
year of negotiations, the
Israelis have not been able
to extract a single concession
from us. So why this opposi-
tion?"
Asked whether he intend-
ed a death threat when he
referred to Hamas as
"Ztilus" (a reference to the
Inkatha movement of South
Africa which challenged the
dominant African National
Congress), Chairman Arafat
shot back at his interviewer:
"Aren't you ashamed to
ask that question? I ask you,
who is threatening whom?
They (llamas) are the ones
who are threatening
—threatening to liquidate
entire families in the oc-
cupied territories, of whom I
can name Bseiso, Barbakh,
Rizk and Abu- Hatab
families. And who attacked
schools, women students,
mosques and scientific es-
tablishments? They are the
ones who started the aggres-
sion, and when the
imperialists (the Israeli
forces) made no move, we
were forced to do our duty for
those people. The 'Zulu'

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