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baqqa mqarqra
A Frog's-eye view

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Monday, August 26, 2002
I promised the interesting article on the current state of the PNA, but then this afternoon somebody called me and reminded me that I'd promised to proof-read for him 1500 pages of a concordance by the 1st September. Ooops, sort of slipped my mind. Anyhow, I shall return to that detailed summary I am preparing. In the meantime, here's a little foretaste:

Al-Jazeera has a long article on the state of the Palestine National Authority, with some interesting comments about Arafat. It states that Arafat tried to ‘maneuver’ his way out of the reforms using the methods that he has employed throughout his political life, and that he was ‘gambling’ on local political changes that would somewhat alter the balance of powers and allow him to escape the pressures being applied to him. However, Bush’s speech brought him to sense the strength of the American determination to be rid of him and the end of cooperation with him. This pushed Arafat into immediately trying to contain the decision to remove him and to maintain for himself a political role. This he did by playing his last card, namely the security services, in a gamble whose outcome is not guaranteed.

Through Arafat could survive the change of some of the security services’ leaders without any consequences, such as Hahmud abu Marzuk, the head of National Security, and Razi Jibali, leader of the Palestinian Police, his survival by encroaching upon the Preventative Security Service was like sticking a hand into a hornets’ nest: no sooner had the changes begun to take effect than it flared up, indicating the weakness of Arafat’s performance and the fact that opposition to his decisions had become a regular matter as the Authority’s powerful men made it clear to him who they are over the smallest of matters.

The article describes the relationship between Arafat and Rajoub as “like the relationship between a father and the petulant son”. The relationship was characterized as difficult and estranged throughout the last eight years, i.e. the period of the PNA, since Rajoub cooperated with Arafat in a conflicting manner throughout those years, during which his star was in the ascendant, showing loyalty on the one hand while not following Arafat’s directives on the other.

Arafat had already tried to get rid of Rajoub twice, most recently three years ago, and to appoint Hassin a-Sheik in his place, one of the Fatah leaders in the West Bank, but Arafat’s attempts failed, and Rajoub both won the struggle for survival and emerged stronger than he had ever been before, remaining at the head of the security forces.

Rajoub retained his strength by depending upon the support of the Tanzim-Fatah in the Palestinian Territories led by the members of the Tanzim from abroad, something that many of the Authority men lacked, in addition to fact that the Preventative Security represented the greatest portal for organizing Fatah elements. It also has greater resources at its disposal than any other security force or ministry in the PNA, which allowed Rajoub to enjoy unique power amongst the members of his organization.

All this pushed the members of his force into rebelling against Arafat’s decision to appoint Zuheir Munasira as the head of Preventative Security in place of Rajoub, since those changes might eliminate the material benefits that the members of the Preventative Security monopolized, and this may explain the demonstrations that were held in several Palestinian cities in support of Rajoub.

Al-Jazeera notes style of Rajoub’s dismissal from office. It says that the decision was not taken lightly, since it was already known that Arafat had tried to remove Rajoub in the past and failed. Arafat therefore sought refuge in the method of ‘weather balloons’, which he applied after his attaining the leadership of the PLO. After the media had discussed Rajoub’s removal from his position, Rajoub announced that he had not heard of his dismissal from office and instructed his men that they must not carry out anyone’s orders other than his own. Meanwhile, Arafat send Jamil e-Tarifi, the Authority’s Minister for Civil Affairs, to inform Rajoub of the decision to dismiss him, while Arafat himself informed Zuheir Munasara that he had been appointed the head of Preventative Security instead of Rajoub. Arafat had hoped by this to leave all the options open, and if it became clear that the changes would face strong opposition, he could reverse the decision by stating that he had not approved this step and that these were merely rumours intended to harm the PNA. However, Rajoub’s demand for a Presidential Order [i.e. in writing] coming from Arafat personally left Arafat no choice but to inform Rajoub of the decision personally at a meeting he held with him.

On the face of things, it would seem that the exchange of Rajoub by Munasara is real change of direction and role for Preventative Security, since one leader was dismissed and another appointed, while the force remained as it was and there was no reduction in the number of its members or the stature of its security role. But in practice, these changes remove Rajoub from the important center of power and make the head of Preventative Security subject to the Minister for the Interior. Accordingly, Arafat has accomplished two things: first, he has removed Rajoub, whom Israel and the United States regarded as a partner or at least as a secondary partner in the Authority’s new leadership, and in this way Arafat can appear to have carried out the demanded reforms while at the same time stopping the emergence of a an alternative leadership for the moment.

The Waxing of Dahlan and the Waning of Rajoub

The announcement of Muhammed Dahlan’s appointment as Palestinian National Security advisor (a position recently created in the Authority) came to indicate that the axis of Muhammed Dahlan, the former head of Preventative Security in the Gaza strip, and Muhammed Rashid, economic advisor to Arafat, is will enjoy preferential treatment in any changes that take place in the leadership of the PNA.

Muhammed Dahlan’s emergence was an essential part in any change in the leadership of the PNA, and coincided with the wave of structural changes the PNA required. The rise of Dahlan co-incided with the fall of Rajoub, indicating the continuing struggle in the authority’s Security Services over power bases.

The disagreement between Dahlan and Rajoub began to emerge after the attack of the Israeli occupation forces on the Preventative Security headquarters in Beitunia in the West Bank, and the arrest of several members of the forces and Hamas activites, and the outburst by Dahlan and his ally Muhammed Rashid accusing Rajoub of failing to inform Arafat of the release of those arrested by Rajoub, and that Rajoub had acted in collusion with Israel. At the same time, Rajoub protested in defense that it was Dahlan who received information that the Americans would not permit the Israeli army to attack Rajoub’s headquarters. Similarly, Rajoub indicated that Dahlan and his ally Rashid were behind the two deals regarding the Church of the Nativity and the lifting of the siege on Arafat, and that these were the deals that encountered great criticism amongst the Palestinian people.

More to follow when I've finished reading the 1500 pages.

Thanks to the Bloggers who gave me advice on pictures. Unfortunately, the picture I have is not currently on-line.

Top story on Al-Jazeera at the moment: The Gult State Qatar has announced that it opposes any attack on Iraq.

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