Despite the blatherings of Wesley Clark (see below), the days of Yasser Arafat may be numbered, according to a report from the Jerusalem Post (via Drudge). The pan-Arab news source Al-Quds-al-Arabi reports that the Egyptian government has issued an ultimatum to Arafat to reform or face an Israeli response unrestrained by either the US or Egypt itself:
According to a report Monday in the pan-Arab Al-Quds-al-Arabi, Suleiman handed Arafat three demands:
First, to unite all the Palestinian security forces under one command authority, and into three components. These include the police, the Preventative Security Service (equivalent of Israel’s General Security Service), and the Palestinian foreign security service (equivalent of Israel’s Mossad).
Secondly, give PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei complete authority to conduct negotiations with Israel over Ariel Sharon’s unilateral disengagement plan.
Thirdly, stand aside and accept a symbolic position and let others lead the Palestinian Authority.
If these demands are not met, the Egyptian-American shield saving Arafat’s life may be removed, Al-Quds-al-Arabi reported.
It appears that despite Gen. Clark’s analysis that blames the US for Palestinian intractability, the Egyptians labor under no such delusions. Egypt has long played both sides of the conflict, making its peace with Israel and recognizing them diplomatically while shipping arms clandestinely to the Palestinians, sometimes via tunnels in Gaza. However, with Sharon offering to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and the US pressuring Hosni Mubarak to do something to justify his $2B per annum, Egypt has finally had enough of Arafat’s obstructionism.
Mubarak gave Arafat a deadline of June 15 for compliance, but if al-Quds-al-Arabi has its story straight, Arafat has no intention of agreeing to a strictly symbolic position in a Palestinian state:
The same official met with Arafat in Ramallah, where the PA chairman told him he intends to refuse the Egyptian demands, because their implementation means the end of his de facto leadership and his reduction to a purely symbolic figure, wrote al-Quds al-Arabi.
If that is true, then Egypt’s threat to leave Arafat’s future “in the hands of Ariel Sharon” will be tested quite soon, even before the Iraqi transfer of sovereignty. We’ll circle June 16 on our calendars now.