Arafat The Street Did Not Wait For Arafat

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 3) by Roni Shaked — At 2:00 in the morning, Arafat faced the cameras, in his first press conference after the siege, and in a theatrical, hysterical appearance, full of pathos, launched into an attack on Israel: “One cannot be silent in light of the Israeli crimes in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. What happened there is an international crime, Nazi behavior,” he shouted, pounding on the table.

The entire press conference was devoted to the Church of the Nativity. While under siege, he was a “living shahid,” after the siege he has become “the knight of the Christian holy places.” “I don’t want to talk about the explosions in my office,” he shouted to the journalists, “what is important to me is to save the church in Bethlehem. You are not doing your jobs. Where is the world? Why is it silent? International intervention is needed to save the church.” Later on he said that “what Israel did is worse than Sabra and Shatilla.”

Arafat spent the night giving interviews to television stations from all over the world, and only in the morning, after a short rest, did he go outside, to fresh air, to the light of the sun. In contrast to what was expected, residents of Ramallah did not go overboard to welcome the rais. After the siege and the war, they too are tired. Only about 200 people showed up at the mukataa in the morning. There were displays of joy and shouts of “in spirit and blood we will redeem you Arafat,” that put a smile on Arafat’s face and a V sign in his hands. But there were no demonstrations, no rallies of welcome. People in Ramallah explained that there was no replacement for Marwan Barghouti, the dynamo of demonstrations.

His first day was planned well. Arafat’s first stop was the el-Bireh cemetery, where he prayed for the souls of the Intifada fallen. From there he went on to the mass grave dug in the course of the siege in the courtyard of the Ramallah hospital and made a short stop there, with kisses and hugs for the wounded.

At his visit to the Palestinian cultural center Halil Sahahini, where Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish lives, Arafat coined the “slogan of rehabilitation.” When he arrived, construction workers were hard at work. Arafat took a paint brush from one of them and began to paint the walls and declared: “We shall start to build, after that we will start to eat.” He then again launched into an attack on Israel and spoke of “a clearly Nazi picture of the Israeli army and leadership.”

When Arafat’s car reached Manara Square in Ramallah, many tried to approach him to shake his hand, but there too, there were no more than a few dozen Palestinians. “El-Hamdalallah el-salama” (welcome back), there were shouts toward the rais, and some tried to touch his car. Arafat smiled back and again made the V sign.

After a short visit to the Palestinian Education Ministry building, the convoy arrived at the building of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Then, accompanied by Jibril Rajoub, Arafat drove to Bituniya, to the headquarters of the Preventive Security Service that had also been demolished.

After his visit, he returned to his office, but there were not a lot of visitors there yesterday. Perhaps they assumed their leader would be too busy. Those who did come were MKs Ahmed Tibi and Mohammed Barakeh. MK Barakeh wept on Arafat’s shoulder. “I didn’t believe he would ever be on his feet again,” he explained later.

At the end of the day Arafat was left with his usual escorts, the people from his bureau, planning his next trips: the Jenin refugee camp, Tulkarm, Nablus and Hebron. He has a lot of work to do as a leader, it is not enough to be a symbol.

[An accompanying photograph of a picture drawn on a wall in the mukataa shows an IDF jeep facing a post with a Palestinian flag on it. The writing says: Where were you? The IDF came to visit and nobody was home. Too bad. We wanted to turn you into shahids.]

An Appearance by a Person on the Verge of Losing Control

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 3) by Gavriel Raam — [The author is an expert and lecturer on non-verbal communication.] At the press conference where he spoke about the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Arafat appeared to be a man on the brink of an emotional breakdown.

The PA chairman went completely berserk and displayed extreme emotional agitation. His face and his tone were a mixture of anger and weeping. He appeared to be someone emotionally out of control. His voice was not steady, his hands moved erratically, and from time to time, there were long silences between his words, which could attest to interrupted thought processes as a result of emotional overload.

The question of course, is whether this outburst was authentic or a deliberate dramatization. It is definitely possible that Arafat exaggerated his response, yet nevertheless, in light of previous outbursts and also judging by his body language, the man does indeed appear to be in a situation of extreme emotional turmoil bordering on lack of control.

Also in the interview he gave CNN, Arafat appeared angry and upset. He often made unnecessary gestures, raised his finger almost in the reporter’s face, and leaned forward as if putting his entire being into his message. He spoke in loud tones, opened his eyes wide and rolled his eyes. His belligerent-aggressive body language was in contrast to his conciliatory words regarding his commitment to the peace process. In reply to a question regarding the possibility of reviving the peace process, he said that he believes it is possible, but his head shook in the negative twice. Credibility is not his strong suit.

Continued Operations
Operation Over, But IDF Continues to Capture Wanted Men

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 2) by Roni Shaked — Although Operation Protective Wall is over, yesterday the IDF again went deep into PA territory to arrest armed men and search for weapons.

Military sources explained that this was a further stage of the operation, and that it had been planned in advance. The most significant military activity took place in Tulkarm and in the el-Aroub refugee camp north of Hebron, and the decision to carry out these operations was made in the wake of information extracted from the hundreds of people arrested in the course of Operation Protective Wall.

In Tulkarm and el-Aroub, 35 Palestinians, who were wanted by the GSS for questioning, were apprehended. In Tulkarm, a lab for manufacturing bombs was found and blown up. In the course of the day, similar operations were conducted in Hebron, where 19 people suspected of terror activity were arrested, and in a village near the city, a senior Hamas man was arrested. Other wanted men were arrested in the villages of Tel and Beita near Nablus, in the village of Anza south of Jenin and in the Doha neighborhood in Bethlehem. Altogether, 158 people suspected of terror activity were arrested yesterday.

The confrontation at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem continued yesterday. In exchanges of fire between the IDF and Palestinians, one Palestinian was killed and five were wounded. Thirty left wing activists from Europe arrived at the site in the afternoon. They were at Arafat’s besieged bureau until Wednesday. They hid in the nearby market, apparently in coordination with Arafat’s people, and after getting a sign, broke into a run toward the western church of the compound. Twelve of them managed to enter, the others were arrested by soldiers.

The IDF said yesterday that the wanted men holed up in the church are the ones who lit the fire on Wednesday in the northern tower of the church, the highest point in the area. Col. Miri Eisen, the director of the IDF field intelligence department, said that they did this so that the foreign press could easily photograph the blaze.

The High Court of Justice yesterday rejected the petition of the Bethlehem governor and of Arab MKs Ahmed Tibi (Arab Movement for Renewal) and Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash), who asked that the IDF be ordered to bring food into the church. “It is hard to describe the gravity of the act of armed Palestinians seizing a holy place while holding hostages,” said Supreme Court Judge Aharon Barak.

The Crisis in the Church of the Nativity: One Killed and Two Wounded Palestinians in a Gunfire Incident

Ma’ariv (p. 2) by Hanan Shlein — Even after Arafat left the mukataa, no progress was made in the negotiations to end the crisis in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Yesterday a member of the Palestinian security services was killed and two others wounded by IDF soldiers’ gunfire in the church area.

Military sources said that soldiers saw several armed Palestinians in the church area and fired at them. The same sources said that the gunfire was not aimed at a building in the church complex, but out in a open area. As a result of this gunfire, one Palestinian was killed and two others wounded.

In another incident yesterday, several foreign peace activists, mostly Americans, clashed with IDF soldiers when they wanted to enter the church. Several of them, five according to an estimate by military sources, succeeded in infiltrating the church. “We succeeded in bringing food to the people who needed it,” said Robert O’Neill, an American activist, adding, “We will stay here until everything is over.”

As to the fire ignited on Wednesday night, there is no doubt that the Palestinians were the ones who did it. The sources added that it was not by chance that the fire was ignited on Wednesday night, around the time that Arafat left the mukataa, and before he began to give interviews to the worldwide media, in which he attacked Israel for igniting the fire in the church.

Palestinian sources said that in accordance with Arafat’s instructions, the activity of the Palestinian negotiation team in the matter of the crisis in the Church of the Nativity was halted. Arafat gave clear instructions that he would be the one to conduct the talks, and in this framework, he also met with the representative of the Pope who came to the region.

The envoy, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, met yesterday also with President Moshe Katzav. The cardinal told the president: “I came here as the envoy of the pope with news of peace and love. I came here in order to ask that everything be done to bring about as soon as possible the end of the tragic situation in Bethlehem and especially in the Church of the Nativity.” Political sources said that it is possible that the special envoy would also visit the Church of the Nativity, however a security source said yesterday that at this stage it would not be possible to guarantee the safety of the cardinal during a visit to the church.

Shmuel Mittleman reports: Last night the High Court of Justice rejected a petition by the governor of Bethlehem, Mohammed El Madani, who is in the Church of the Nativity, and by MKs Ahmed Tibi and Mohammed Barakeh, to instruct the IDF to allow medical teams and Red Cross representatives enter the church complex in order to transfer food and medicines to the Palestinians there.

Barghouti Interrogation Indicates That Arafat Was Involved in Terror Attacks

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 3) by Haim Broida — The GSS says that the Tanzim commander in the West Bank, Marwan Barghouti, admitted during his interrogation to his involvement in directing terror attacks in which dozens of Israelis were killed and wounded. The GSS also says that as the investigation of the senior Tanzim commander continues, there is a better picture of the personal involvement of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat in terrorism.

The GSS says that Barghouti’s investigation shows that he was in direct contact with Arafat and that in his position of Fatah secretary general, he had to ensure monetary aid for terrorists to acquire what they needed. The GSS says that the investigation indicates that every activist who asked for money had to fill out a detailed request, then Barghouti himself would sign it, add his recommendation and pass the request on to Arafat. The GSS says that Barghouti said that every sum of money, even the smallest, required his approval and that of Arafat. In addition, some of the weapons used for terror attacks were provided by the arms stores of Force 17, Arafat’s presidential guard.

A security source said last night, “the developments in the investigation place the public and international debates over the question of whether Arafat is doing enough to fight terror in a ridiculous light. These revelations show that Arafat did do enough, but in helping the Fatah organizations terror activities.”

The GSS adds that Ahmed Barghouti, Marwan Barghouti’s nephew and right hand man, admitted under questioning that he himself sent terrorists to perpetrate terror attacks in Israel. Among those attacks he admitted direct involvement in were: the shooting attack on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem last January, in which two people were killed, the shooting attack in the Neve Yaakov neighborhood in Jerusalem in February, where a policewoman was killed and ten people were injured.

Michal Goldberg adds: Marwan Barghouti petitioned the High Court of Justice yesterday that it allow him to meet with a lawyer and to sleep for a “reasonable” amount of time. Barghouti also asked that he be allowed to undergo medical exams. The High Court of Justice will hold an urgent hearing on the matter this morning.

New Terror Attacks Police Preparing for Chemical and Biological Terror Attacks

Ma’ariv (p. 3) by Ami Ben David et al. — There is a new wave of warnings of plans by terror organizations to perpetrate large scale terror attacks in Israel. Hamas is responsible for most of the these plans.

The GSS recently received new warnings that terror organizations want to renew suicide and shooting attacks inside the Green Line. Another scenario the security establishment fears is the abduction of soldiers as bargaining chips for the release of Marwan Barghouti and Rehavam Ze’evi’s assassins, now in the Jericho jail.

Hamas announced yesterday its intention to carry out attacks on Israeli targets in the next few days. “Resistance is still strong,” said Abed el -Aziz Rantisi, a Hamas leader and added: “We will carry out attacks in the next few days and weeks. We cannot agree to the occupation. Sharon and his government have done nothing except murder civilians.”

A senior security source said yesterday that the organizations want to prove that their operational infrastructure is still active despite the extensive arrests during Operation Protective Wall. He said, “the organizations also realize that as far as the Palestinian Authority sees it, the ‘green light’ for terror attacks continues.”

Teams from an elite police unit will soon undergo training in counter-terrorism for areas hit by chemical and biological substances. The training will take place in light of police officials’ conclusion that the non-conventional threat has become real of late. It should be noted that some bombs that exploded in the last year and a half contained chemical substances, in an effort to increase their lethality.