Even if Arafat keeps the promise he made over the weekend and appoints a prime minister, all the central authority will remain in his hands and the role of prime minister will remain without real content in foreign and security policy.

Yesterday for the first time, sections of the Palestinian constitution approved by Arafat and which will be presented for approval by the Palestinian institutions were revealed.”The head of state is the head of the republic, the supreme commander of the Palestinian national security forces, who represents it in foreign contacts directly and who is responsible for contracts and agreements by the state”, reads the proposal.

Those who formulated the new constitution, led by Dr. Nabil Shaath, also related to the authorities of the prime minister. Although he will be the one who will form the government, will choose the ministers, and will be responsible for internal matters (whose dealings do not really interest the rais), he will chair the cabinet meetings, except for meetings summoned by the president. President Arafat, it turns out, will have the authority to convene cabinet meetings led by him.

Diplomatic sources in Israel and Europe expressed satisfaction at Arafat’s announcement about his intention to appoint a prime minister. Some Officials in Jerusalem even believed that the PA had made several important moves in distancing Arafat from decision making circles. However the new constitution proves the opposite: Arafat continues to be relevant, and his place at the center of the diplomatic arena remains as stable as before.

Associates of the PA chairman said that Arafat has again succeeded in misleading, and not for the first time, the Americans, the Europeans and the Israelis. The latter will continue to await his removal, while he is expected to strengthen his position while relying on the new constitution approved by the PA’s official institutions.

This article ran in the February 17th issue of Maariv.