With Arafat out of the picture, the only difference between Arafat and his followers is that his successors wear business suits.
Each PLO official who runs the Palestinian Authority maintains a clear record who continues to support the armed struggle and the essentials of the PLO covenant which mandates the “phased eradication of Israel”.
If the Clinton holdovers in the US State Department have tried to sell the President that Arafat’s inner circle are advocates of peace and reconciliation, there may be another way to look at it, if President Bush’s supporters can remind the president of the public record of each of the PLO officials who often make a nice impression in the media, and whose reality belies their image.
Here is the line-up of those who are set to take the reins of power from Arafat:
Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala)
PNA Prime Minister
Former Speaker, Palestinian Legislative Council
Member, Fatah Central Committee
Manager of PLO financial empire
A man with an image as moderate negotiator, Qurei has showed signs of being anything but moderate:
He is on record as saying that the borders of the future Palestinian state are the boundaries set by the UN partition resolution in 1947. This means Israel would not even have West Jerusalem.
In 1998, he told a PA rally: “The leadership that threw stones is ready to return and use stones to free the people and the land.”
PNA Minister of External Affairs
Chair, Palestinian National Council Political Committee
Member, Palestinian Legislative Council
Member, Fatah Central Committee
Sha’ath is at home in the western political sphere, and tends to be received well by westerners.
While he seen as a moderate, there is evidence to the contrary:
Shortly after two Hamas bus bombings in 1994, he made the comment that:
“For us, we have a political relationship with Hamas, a brotherly relationship”
In the 1996 PA elections he used a campaign emblem of two Kalashnikov assault rifles and a hand grenade superimposed on a map of “all Palestine.” In 2000 he said:
No one believed him (Arafat) when he used to say it… [but] The choice is not at all between options of negotiation and fighting: you can have negotiations and fight at the same time… the Palestinian people fight with weapons, with jihad, with Intifada and suicide actions… and it is destined to always fight and negotiate at the same time.
In 2001 he boasted of the capacity of the Palestinians to kill Israelis, saying that Hezbolla would kill 20-25 Israelis in a year, whereas the Intifada, in a “mere” four months had succeeded in killing 74 Israelis.
Sha’ath served as Chairman of the PLO Constitution Committee, and has overseen the drafting of a new constitution, approved by the PLC, for the proposed Palestinian state. This is a constitution that would establish a state based on the strict Islamic law and mandate the right of every Palestinian Arab refugee and refugee descendent to return to their “homes” from 1948.
Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen)
First PNA Prime Minister, April to September 2003
Member, Palestine National Council
Member, PLO Executive Committee
Abu Mazen has been widely seen as a moderate:
He participated in the negotiation process during the Madrid Conference, and headed the Palestinian negotiating team to the secret Oslo talks that preceded an agreement. A long-time head of the PLO Negotiating Affairs Department, he was a signatory to the Principles of Declaration signed in September 1993, and the Interim Agreement in 1995. That same year, working secretly with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin he drafted a controversial “Framework for the Conclusion of a Final Status Agreement Between Israel and the PLO” (better known as the Abu Mazen-Beilin Plan) and then refused to sign the document.
Yossi Beilin voices the opinion that Abu Mazen’s positions are more extreme than Arafat’s, since he “was among Arafat’s ‘restrictors’ during the Camp David summit.”
Abu Mazen lauded Arafat’s rejection of Barak’s offer at Camp David in 2000, saying, “I do not feel any regret. What we did was the right thing to do.” No opportunity was missed, since “the opportunity did not exist…they say ‘we offered 95% (of the territory),’ and I ask why not 100%?”
According to Arabic News, once the Al Aqsa Intifada began, there were some among Arafat’s advisors who pressed for a settlement with Israel. But Abu Mazen-a man recently touted as conciliatory-advised Arafat to continue the armed uprising until the goal of a Palestinian state was achieved.
Among other positions of Abu Mazen that cast grave doubt on his moderation:
He has given sanction to killing civilian Jews in the West Bank and Gaza. In the Arabic paper A-Sharq al-Aussat, he said:
It is our right to resist, the Intifada must continue, and it is the right of the Palestinian people to resist and use all possible means in order to defend its presence and existence. I add and say that if the Israelis come to your land in order to erect a settlement then it is your right to defend what is yours [using] all means and arms as long as they are coming to your home…
He insists on the right of return, which, if implemented, would destroy Israel:
The refugees of 1948 and the refugees of 1967 have the right reserved to return to their homeland and every place they have left…this is not only limited to land under the sovereignty of the PA. We demand their return to Jaffa, to Haifa and the other regions that they came from
He said, regarding the existence of a Jewish Temple at the Temple Mount:
I challenge the assertion [that there has ever been a Jewish temple.] But even if it were true, we do not accept it because it is not the logic of someone who wants a practical peace.
He was praised for criticizing the “militarization” of the Second Intifada, but later clarified:
We didn’t say we would stop the armed struggle. We said that the militarization of the Intifada should stop. This is why we said that there is no option but to stop it for a year and it won’t be perceived as caving in on our side…
Abbas’s doctoral thesis was “Zionist leadership and the Nazis.” He later expanded it into a book, The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and the Zionist Movement, in which he wrote:
[the Zionists gave] permission to every racist in the world, led by Hitler and the Nazis, to treat Jews as they wish, so long as it guarantees immigration to Palestine…Having more victims meant greater rights and stronger privilege to join the negotiation table for dividing the spoils of war once it was over.
He is still echoing these opinions. In an interview on official Palestinian TV, he charged that the Nazis had no specific plan to murder Jews, that the term “Holocaust” can be applied only to Gypsies and Palestinians, and that the “Holocaust Industry” is a Zionist plot to generate billions.
Abu Mazen was also the man who financed the terrorists who killed the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
All of this is important as a matter of record but in a sense may now be moot. For, such are the vagaries of Palestinian politics that it is not Arafat, but rather Abu Mazen who has been rendered irrelevant to proceedings within the PA; his “new” government lasted less than five months:
Former PNA Minister for Security Affairs
Co-Founder, Shabiba, Fatah Youth Organization
In the 1980s, he was arrested by the Israelis eleven times for terrorist activities associated with Shabiba, and subsequently became a student leader of the first Intifada. After he was deported by Israel, he went to Tunis, where he gained Arafat’s confidence as he continued to orchestrate Intifada activities.
On his return to Gaza in 1994, he took over the Preventive Security Services in Gaza. His base of power has remained Gaza-there is resentment of him in the West Bank, where rival Jabril Rajoub maintains his base of power.
Dahlan criticized lack of coherent policy in the second Intifada and resigned in 2002 in disagreement with Arafat regarding PA reforms. Because of his independence and his desire to establish one single security force he was sought after as reforms were being instituted within the PA. Once he assumed a role in the cabinet of Abu Mazen, he became very much an Abu Mazen loyalist, publicly associated with moderation.
However, Dahlan is on record as having no intention of dismantling the terrorist infrastructure. What is more his personal involvement in terrorism is eminently clear:
- Israeli Intelligence is in possession of documents proving the direct complicity of Dahlan in all stages of the foiled Karine-A gunboat operation.
- The CIA has a secret recording of Dahlan giving orders to bomb an Israeli school bus in Kfar Darom, November 18, 2000. Two adults were killed in that attack, and several children were wounded, three siblings who each lost part of a leg.
- His name is associated with a document for a bomb factory.
- He sheltered Muhammad Dief, a terrorist with blood on his hands.
- Dahlan said in an interview that he had hired 25 Hamas terrorists specifically in order to protect them from being arrested by the Israelis.
Dahlan’s loyalty to Abu Mazen and his charges that Fatah was instrumental in generating Abu Mazen’s downfall made him a focus of Fatah tensions. This resulted in a falling out with Arafat; Abu Ala then excluded him from his newly formulated cabinet. By February 2004, Arafat had begun to court Dahlan, but this appears to be an effort to quell tensions between PA security forces and gunmen loyal to Dahlan.
Member, Palestinian Legislative Council
Co-founder Shabiba, Fatah Youth Organization
He is, after Arafat, the person most closely allied with recent Palestinian terrorism. According to Avi Dichter, director of the Israel’s General Security Services, Barghouti has been in charge of the ongoing terrorist war against Israel.
Barghouti provided assistance when Arafat established the Tanzim, a paramilitary force of Fatah that is currently responsible for some 50% of the violence against Israel, and was subsequently appointed its commander by Arafat. When he lost a re-election to the position, Arafat cancelled the results.
On January 17, 2002, in an infamous strike, Tanzim militia opened fire with an attack rifle at a bat mitzvah party in Hadera, killing six and wounding over 30. Israeli security sources have firmly established that Barghouti knew of the attack in advance, and gave it his blessing.
He has close associations with the Al-Aqsa Brigades, founded in 2000, which has carried out some of the most brutal of terror attacks. He publicly denies a role in founding this special operations paramilitary group, but in April 2002 they claimed him as their leader, and it is clear that other key members of Tanzim are also intimately involved with the Brigades. It has been his habit, as well, to provide fiery speeches at gatherings such as funerals to stir up the masses.
In a New Yorker interview in 2001, he said that if he received a complete withdrawal of Israel, i.e., to pre-’67 lines, he would still seek “bigger things”-specifically, “one state for all the peoples.” Quite simply, he does not seek coexistence with Israel but rather Israel’s disappearance as a Jewish state. In a discussion with Ha’aretz, about whether Fatah would restrict its terrorism to “Area A,” that is, areas under Palestinian control, Barghouti replied: “For me, Ramallah and Tel Aviv are now Area A. The same.”
In yet another, astonishing, interview-this time with an Arab paper – Barghouti described his critical role in igniting the Intifada that began in 2000. (See In Their Words.)
Barghouti was captured by the IDF in the West Bank in April 2002. He is currently standing trial in Israel: The indictment filed against him alleges that he violated seven provisions of the penal law, including membership in a terrorist organization, activity in a terrorist organization, murder, complicity to murder, solicitation to murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit a felony.
National Security Advisor (Arafat appointment)
Former Head, West Bank Preventive Security Forces
For throwing a grenade at an Israeli military jeep and killing Israeli soldiers, he spent the years from 1968 until 1986 in Israeli prisons (where he learned Hebrew and English). As a result of his role in the Intifada in 1987, he was then expelled to Lebanon.
When he returned to PA-controlled territory in the West Bank in 1994, he took over the Security Forces there, bringing together thousands of young men, most of whom who had been involved in the Intifada. Rajoub is a strong PA loyalist. He has a reputation as someone who abuses Arab human rights and frequently resorts to crude strong-arm techniques: more than one journalist who has criticized the PA or Arafat has received a visit from Preventive Security.
Rajoub has turned a blind eye to terrorism, saying:
If I have information about terror activity in Area B [where Israel has responsibility for security], I won’t give it to the Israelis.
He has also voiced support for Hamas, telling Al-Jazira Television on May 27, 1998:
We view Hamas as part of the national and Islamic liberation movement… At the top of my list is the occupation and not Hamas. We are not interested in arrests.
On April 19, 2002, then Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky reported the following during a briefing he gave regarding Israeli operations in Defensive Shield:
…we went to the base of Jabril Rajoub. This is an army base, but we also found a lot of costumes for people that are going to make suicide bombings – fake hair and kippas [skullcaps] for people who are going to put them on so they can get into Israeli streets and make suicide bombings. We have some of the pictures…
Rajoub, for whom a bright future in the PA has been predicted, was actually fired by Arafat in 2002 because he was perceived as a threat. He returned to favor in August 2003, when Arafat appointed him as his National Security Advisor: (Rajoub-who has a fiercely competitive relationship with Dahlan-had acquired value as a counterweight to Dahlan, who had become an Abu Mazen loyalist.)
In November 2003, he called for increased “Iraqi resistance to the American occupation.”
President, Al Quds University, East Jerusalem
He played a role of significance during the Intifada of 1987. In bills of indictment brought against seven leaders of the violence in Lod Military Court in 1989, the Israeli Government prosecutor stated that Nusseibeh served as a conduit for money “for financing the intifada,” and that Nusseibeh was responsible for “drawing up reports and leaflets for intifada purposes such as instructing intifada activists [on]…throwing firebombs” at Israelis and “fighting with knives.”
During the 1991 Gulf War, he was caught contacting Iraqi officials in order to help direct the Scud rocket attacks of Saddam Hussein. According to a statement by Col. (Res.) Shalom Harari, former Arab Affairs Advisor for the Israeli Defense Ministry:
While the rockets were falling it became clear…that…[he]…was telephoning the Iraqi ambassador in one of the neighboring countries to tell the Iraqis where to shoot the missile.
Nusseibeh was arrested by Israel’s Shin Bet Intelligence Agency, and put in administrative detention without trial for several weeks. After the Gulf War ended, Israeli officials allowed Nusseibeh a plea bargain under which he voluntarily left the country for three years.
After the Gulf War, he became a member of the PLO steering committee for the Madrid Conference. By 1995, he had assumed his position at Al-Quds University. He attracted considerable attention when he wrote a letter to Saddam Hussein in January 2001:
In the name of Al-Quds University…allow me to express the admiration of the Palestinians for your honorable positions…You represent the vanguard of steadfastness…We, in Jerusalem, are inspired by you…We are proud to belong to a nation, which (sic) considers you a symbol of resistance and a symbol of greatness…We are certain of your support…
After the sudden death of Faisal Husseini in 2001, Nusseibeh was appointed the PLO’s representative in East Jerusalem. Since then, he has been regarded by many as a leading voice of Palestinian moderation: He has written dozens of articles on Jerusalem and the prospects for agreement with Israel, and is known for his close relations to Israeli leftists.
In July 2002, however, Israeli Public Security Minister Uzi Landau ordered the closure of the administrative offices of Al-Quds University, including the Nusseibeh’s office, claiming that they served as an arm of the Palestinian Authority, which does not have the right to operate in Jerusalem.
Farouq Qaddoumi (Abu Lutf)
Head, PLO Political Bureau
Secretary-General, Fatah Central Committee
Founding Member, Fatah
By 1973, Arafat appointed him to head the foreign bureau of the PLO (to become, in essence, its “foreign minister.”) In the years following he skillfully enhanced relationships with the PLO in a host of foreign countries, establishing missions (quasi-embassies) and gaining recognition for the PLO that has been enormously important in advancing its cause. While he worked as well on ties with Arabs nations, Europe and the U.S., his key portfolios were for Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union-where he garnered considerable support.
Qaddoumi identifies as a refugee, for whom refugee rights is the first issue of the Palestinian agenda. Except for some important meetings, he has declined to come into PA areas and has lingered in Tunis, spending time as well in Jordan and Syria.
Opposed to the Oslo Accords, he refused to sign the Declaration of Principles in 1993., and played a key role in getting the PLO executive to never ratify the “D.O.P.” which obligated the PLO to cancel the PLO covenant for the liberation of Palestine.
Rashid Abu Shabak
Head, PNA Preventive Security Forces, Gaza
Rashid Abu Shabak served as deputy to Mohammed Dahlan when he headed Preventive Security Forces in Gaza, and assumed that position when Dahlan resigned in 2002.
While still Dahlan’s lieutenant, he was implicated in several terrorist acts:
- When the CIA released information regarding the fact that Dahlan gave orders for the bombing of a school bus in November 2000, Shabak was understood to have been the one who personally supervised the preparation of the bomb.
The CIA had recordings of Shabak giving orders for other attacks, as well.
- The IDF captured a secret Preventive Security document in November 2001 for a plan to produce large quantities of acid for use in bomb-making a terrorist attacks. The document indicates that Shabak is one of the persons who were involved in approving technical specifications and financing mode.
During a press conference on August 22, 2002, Shabak,at that point already Gaza Preventative Security Chief, put on display Akram Muhammad al-Zatma, who was a Palestinian student suspected of informing Israel of the whereabouts of Hamas military leader Salah Shehadeh. Zatma had been arrested a month earlier and held in detention until the press conference, when he was turned over to Hamas gunmen and summarily executed.
Minister of Information, Arab League
Founder and Secretary-General, MIFTAH
Member, Palestinian Legislative Council
Ashrawi, both as a woman and as a Christian, is an anomaly among the Palestinian activists among whom she frequently moves. For these reasons, among others, she has perhaps attracted more than her share of attention. While unsuited for Palestinian Arab radio and television, she continues to be an informal spokesperson for the Palestinian cause because of her fluent English and poise on screen have made her an attractive candidate for international interviews.
Ashrawi has, however, a propensity for playing fast and loose with facts. The following serve as examples:
- She claimed that “the land of Israel” has no basis in history and that Jesus was a Palestinian.
- She justified the brutal lynching in the West Bank on October 12, 2000 of two Israeli reservists (who were clearly not undercover as they were acknowledged by journalists to be in fatigues and driving a car with Israeli plates) with a fabrication: “The two undercover Israeli agents that had infiltrated the march were recognized by the Palestinians as members of the Death Squads that had been responsible for assassinations…”
- In making a point regarding Palestinian right of return, she offered CNN desk anchor Daryn Kagan the blatant untruth that “all refugees throughout the world have the right to return, according to law.”
- Distorting the historical reality of the British having been assigned the Mandate to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine (which was carved from the Ottoman Empire and not independent), she claimed: “There was a Palestinian state… Just because we were under occupation. Just because we were placed under the British Mandate. Palestine existed…. My birth certificate says Palestine.. Anything before ’47 said Palestine.”