- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2002

JERUSALEM Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat is expected to replace his reform-minded security minister with a longtime loyalist in a Cabinet reshuffle as early as today.
On the way out is Security Minister Abdel Razak Yehiyeh, who was brought to Mr. Arafat's Cabinet five months ago and turned out to be a reformer determined to halt participation by Palestinian security officials in attacks on Israelis.
He is to be replaced by Hani el Hassan, 69, a veteran leader in Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction of the Palestinian Authority.
"[Mr. Yehiyeh] was overambitious. He didn't know where the red lines were," said one aide to Mr. Arafat. "He was angering people inside the PA and the security forces. He wanted to bash all the Hamas cells and disarm all the Fatah gunmen."
Mr. Arafat's Cabinet recently resigned to avoid a vote of no confidence by the elected but normally subservient Palestinian Assembly after a debate in which ministers were accused of corruption.
Four new faces are expected in Mr. Arafat's new lineup, although the size of the Cabinet will be reduced from 21 to 19.
Mr. Yehiyeh, 72, a previously retired leader of the Palestinian Liberation Army, had reflected a view among moderate Palestinians that security forces should prevent armed militias from operating with impunity.
That also squared with demands by Israel and the United States for substantive Palestinian reform before implementing a "road map" toward Palestinian independence, floated in the region by Assistant Secretary of State William Burns last week.
In one showdown about the need to restrain armed militias, Mr. Arafat reportedly told Mr. Yehiyeh: "Are you crazy? It will create a civil war."
One highly placed Palestinian source said, "Arafat brings in and kicks out all the time. For decades that's been his policy divide and rule, don't let anyone get too powerful."
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is to retain a Cabinet seat as minister of local government.
Israel reportedly has agreed to allow 14 Palestinian Assembly members from the Gaza Strip to travel to the West Bank today so they can attend the legislative session in Ramallah at which the new Cabinet will be announced.
They had been banned from going to a session last month when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he was barring all deputies implicated in "terrorist" activities.
Mr. Arafat's announcement of his new Cabinet has been delayed since Sept. 25, first by an Israeli siege of his headquarters, then by wrangling among factions.
The official announcement could lead to another revolt in the assembly and a new vote of no confidence.
Mr. Arafat has come under domestic and international pressure to reform his Palestinian Authority, which has been mired in accusations of corruption, incompetence and collusion with militant groups.
The official Palestinian No. 2 man, Abu Mazen, who has called the use of militias and firearms in the uprising a "grave mistake," has been sidelined by Mr. Arafat.
Last week, Mr. Mazen boycotted a Palestinian delegation that met with Mr. Burns.
Other Palestinian figures who have become critical of Mr. Arafat's administration include Mohammed Dahlan, who resigned as the preventive security chief in Gaza earlier this year. He was then appointed national security adviser to Mr. Arafat, a post he says he never bothered to take up because he believed there was nothing more he could do within the Arafat administration.
"Change doesn't only mean bringing new faces into the Cabinet," he told reporters in Gaza this weekend. "Change should include the entire security establishment so it could give a positive impression about the PA's ability to enforce law and order."
He declined to be officially installed as national security adviser, "because I had reached the conclusion that the changes that everyone is looking forward to have not been made."
Mr. Dahlan recently complained at a businessmen's meeting in Gaza that the Palestinians had made mistake after mistake and that he had advised Mr. Arafat to stop the violent uprising in a written report immediately after September 11 last year. His said his advice had been ignored.
However, Mr. Dahlan, widely favored by American officials as a successor to Mr. Arafat, said casting him in that role implied a disloyalty that he would not countenance.
He also criticized U.S. efforts to topple Mr. Arafat, saying the veteran leader had been a symbol for decades and was legitimately elected to office.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide