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Palestinian leader refuses to attend summit

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- JERUSALEM (AP) -- Despite international pressure, Yasser Arafat on Friday refused to attend a Mideast summit until Israel agrees to stop firing at Palestinian demonstrators at flashpoints in the West Bank and Gaza. In the West Bank, violence persisted with two Palestinians killed by Israel gunfire. In Jerusalem, Israeli police masquerading as Palestinians seized two Arab teen-agers throwing stones and beat them while holding them in a chokehold.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan led diplomatic efforts to bring together Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at a U.S.-led summit at Egypt's Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheik. After meeting Arafat, Annan said he was optimistic a summit could be held in Egypt within two days.

President Bill Clinton called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other Arab leaders to win their backing for a summit. Mubarak spoke with Arafat six times over the past 24 hours to try to persuade him to attend, Israel TV's Channel Two said. Annan was headed for Egypt today.

Palestinian officials were skeptical, though they said mediation efforts would continue.

"Israel must stop its attacks, and if Barak does not agree to the Palestinian conditions, there will not be a summit," Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said.

Arafat wants Israel to withdraw troops from the entrances of Palestinian cities, lift a siege of West Bank towns and agree to the establishment of an international commission of inquiry into the violence.

Barak also appeared reluctant. "We have no problem with attending a summit that will stop the violence," Barak said.

On Friday, Israeli police trying to prevent new unrest blocked Muslim worshippers under age 45 from gathering for weekly noon prayers at the site known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. For the past two Fridays, deadly clashes have erupted between police and rock-throwers during prayers.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 14, 2000


Vain leader playing a dangerous game that he can't afford to lose

Yasser Arafat

By Robert Fisk in Beirut

14 October 2000

Vain, nepotistic, dictatorial, ruthless. Yasser Arafat is all of these; a man who was prepared to watch his people massacred in the Tel el-Zaatar refugee camp in Beirut, under siege by Israel's Lebanese Christian allies in 1976, so that he could show the world the brutality of his enemies.

He declared a ceasefire. Then he broke it. Then he placed the survivors of the subsequent massacre in the ruined Christian village of Damour and  when he visited them in 1976  they threw stones and rotten vegetables at him. But by then he had made his point: the Palestinians were massacred by Israel's allies.

Cynical, a manipulator, a man with a peasant cunning. No student would ever put his moustached portrait on the wall. This was no Che Guevara, but a man who understood the most important quality of a guerrilla leader: to change his mind when all others had decided his actions. In 1982, surrounded by the Israeli army in Beirut, he had only to surrender. And then, just when he seemed vanquished, he decided  to the despair of the Lebanese  to fight on against the most powerful army in the Middle East. Up to 17,000 civilians died in Israel's 1982 invasion. Up to 2,000 Palestinian civilians were slaughtered in the Sabra and Chatila camps, for which the Palestinians and the Israelis, too, blamed Ariel Sharon, then Israeli defence minister. The Palestinians lost. Mr Arafat won. Mr Sharon was for ever a war criminal in the eyes of the Arab world.

"We are proud of our democracy in the revolution," Mr Arafat told me then. "It is the hardest and most difficult kind of democracy  because it is democracy among the guns. But we have succeeded in creating a democracy, and those freedom fighters who have been given a democracy will continue to have democracy in their independent state." Some hope.

In the end, offered a "state" in Palestine, Mr Arafat was not interested in democracy. His secret policemen (trained by the CIA) arrested those who opposed his "peace" with Israel. His relatives were offered sinecures. His treasury redirected money to his loyal acolytes. He was now the friend of America and Israel. He trusted them. He called it the "peace of the brave". He was the president of Palestine.

In retrospect, President Bill Clinton should have remembered the Beirut years. Just when we all thought Mr Arafat would leave besieged Beirut in 1982, outgunned and outnumbered by the Israelis, he chose to fight on. And now, outgunned and outnumbered by the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza and east Jerusalem, he chooses to fight on once more. Yes, he abhorred the cruelty of Palestinians who murdered his opponents. Just as he did the killers of the two Israelis held in the Ramallah police station.

And at the Camp David talks in July, he was supposed to make the final compromise  leaving Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty  but decided to refuse the deal. Mr Clinton blamed him for "wrecking" the peace. The Israelis blamed him for the violence provoked by Ariel Sharon. But Mr Arafat, the obedient colonial servant, was his own master. He wanted the Palestinian state he thought he had been offered by the Oslo agreement, negotiated by henchmen who, most of them, did not speak English and who included no lawyers. He had been tricked, so he thought. So there was no deal.

Mr Arafat has a characteristic so familiar to guerrilla leaders, so incomprehensible to Westerners: he changed his mind without even realising he intended to do so. But he understands the brutality of politics. If he understood the weakness of his antagonists, he struck. Let the Israelis and Americans blame him for the "violence" in the occupied territories: so be it. Let the world decide who kills Palestinians. The Americans were to blame, as well as the Israelis. Let the Palestinians die  and prove the cruelty of the Israelis. All this he learnt in Beirut. All this he now plays out in "Palestine".

Despite all, he is a brave man. The Israelis tried to bomb him to death in Beirut  and claimed they weren't shooting at him. The Israelis tried to kill him in Gaza two days ago  and claimed they were not trying to kill him. In 1982 he announced that his Palestinians had been transformed by "a miracle of heroism" and become a "symbol which will go down in our history". All the while, in 1982, he demanded international recognition and protection.

In the end, US warships escorted his fighters out of Beirut  leaving the civilians to be massacred in Sabra and Chatila. Now he demands the same international recognition and protection  but he cannot leave. Mr Arafat understands the endgame. Let the Israelis attack and kill the Palestinians. The world will understand. It is a dangerous game  but one that the Israelis have still not understood. 10/fisk141000.shtml

-- Martin Thompson (, October 14, 2000.

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