- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 8, 2003

TEL AVIV — The emergency Palestinian Cabinet appointed this week by President Yasser Arafat is encountering stiff opposition from lawmakers, who have scheduled a vote of confidence today in parliament, politicians said.

The confidence vote reflects concern that the emergency declaration flouts Palestinian law and will be exploited by Mr. Arafat — whose health is in question — and Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia to carry out a crackdown on Palestinian militants. The United States and Israel have pressed for such a crackdown.

“I think Abu Ala will have a lot of difficulties,” said Kadoura Fares, a member of the 83-seat legislative council, referring to Mr. Qureia by his nickname. “When you have an emergency government, the impression is that the government will do something against the law. They believe that they will have a tough policy toward the opposition organizations.”

The commotion over the new Palestinian government comes amid concern about Mr. Arafat’s health. After the Palestinian leader appeared frail and dazed at the Cabinet swearing-in ceremony Tuesday, a report in the London Guardian said Mr. Arafat had suffered a minor heart attack Friday.

“He had a stomach flu, but he never had a heart attack,” Dr. Yousef Goussous told the Associated Press after examining Mr. Arafat last week. Yesterday both Egyptian and Jordanian doctors arrived in Ramallah to monitor Mr. Arafat’s condition.

Palestinian politicians said Mr. Arafat’s health had improved significantly in the last day while Yasser Abed Raboo, an aide, said the president was in “excellent condition.”

Israel said meanwhile it may mobilize reservists for patrols against terrorist attacks in the next few days. The army has already put military training on hold and shifted soldiers to areas around the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to make it more difficult for militants to carry out bombings.

Israeli military officials say there’s been an upsurge in attack warnings amid preparations for the weeklong Jewish festival Succot, which starts tomorrow.

“There is a limited call-up being considered,” said an army spokesman.

The government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is likely to face pressure to make good on its promise to “remove” Mr. Arafat if attacks continue over the holiday like Saturday’s bombing of a seaside restaurant in Haifa that killed 19.

Instead of punishing Mr. Arafat, Israel retaliated against an base in Syria that it said was a training camp for Islamic Jihad, the organization that took responsibility for the Haifa bombing.


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