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August 31, 2004

Dear Friend of FLAME:

Israel has long complained that it has no partner in the peace process——no responsible authority among the Palestinians who supports a) the concept of a Jewish nation and b) a two-state solution with Palestine occupying most of what is now the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in East Jerusalem. That, after all, is exactly what Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat in 2000 and what Arafat turned down without even a counter offer. Not only has Arafat proven unwilling to create a Palestinian nation, he is also likely incapable of it. Never known for his administrative prowess, Arafat has rather demonstrated an uncanny talent for maintaining his brutal grip on power through double-dealing, cronyism and abject dictatorial force. (Certainly no one has ever accused Arafat of having democratic instincts.) Consequently, Palestinian society and its economy remain in shambles, despite hundreds of millions of dollars poured into it by the United States and the European Union. Now in his waning years and in the face of mounting civil chaos in the territories, Arafat's incompetence is today being exposed even by his countrymen. While it's unclear who among the Palestinians does support peace with Israel, such sentiments will surely not be given voice while Arafat is in power. Indeed, Arafat remains one of the greatest obstacles to peace in the region and to sovereignty for the Palestinian people. The article below, by Reuters (the Western news source least sympathetic to Israel), recounts the struggle of the Palestinian people to free themselves from the authoritarian rule of their long-time despot, which would be the first step to finding a leader who can steer them to peace and statehood. We can only wish them luck and hope that the tenacious and resilient Arafat does not turn out to be a "president for life."

James Sinkinson
Director, FLAME

Palestinians vote for reforms; fear Arafat inaction
By Reuters, August 26, 2004

Palestinian legislators voted yesterday to back an anti-corruption reform package, but feared nothing would come of it as President Yasser Arafat was withholding his stamp of approval. Rampant malfeasance in the upper echelons of Palestinian government has stirred unrest and disorder, underlined by a shooting attack yesterday that seriously wounded a Gaza security chief close to Arafat.

The parliament voted 31-12 in favor of a report by a 14-member committee entrusted with overseeing the implementation of reforms approved in July by a majority of legislators. But while Arafat has admitted to "mistakes" and voiced support in principle for reforms, he has declined to sign a presidential decree needed to translate the legislators' recommendations into action.

"We have not accomplished what we set out to do," said reformist lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi. "We've received partial cooperation but not compliance for implementation."

The report calls for the prime minister and interior minister to be empowered to end "security chaos" by revamping a murky plethora of security services loyal to Arafat and making them accountable to the cabinet. It also urges elections to weed out an old elite around Arafat that many see as corrupt, incompetent and out of touch.

"There is the need for a government capable of facing up to the challenges facing our people," the report said, alluding to the quest for statehood. "We expect this to be the start of a comprehensive reform process that would put our people on a path of positive and important change bringing a new life ... "

There was no immediate comment from Arafat or his aides.

"The president has agreed to our recommendations in general, but he is refusing to issue a decree to implement them," committee member Azmi al-Shueibi told Reuters before the vote. "Without a decree, our recommendations will not be binding." Arafat, in a goodwill letter to the parliament, spoke of the importance of reforms including separation of powers, legal pursuit of corruption cases and efforts to end internal chaos. But he did not commit himself to concrete measures.

The committee's report did not contain an expected demand that Arafat sign a decree committing to reforms. "This report lacks sufficient gravity," said lawmaker Hassan Khreishah. "Many in our committee have been close to Arafat, and they declined to let the report address the core of the problem, the president's lack of action."

The legislators also recommended transferring corruption cases to the attorney general as part of a push to make the courts independent of Palestinian power brokers.


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