Arab leaders worried by Arafat's destabilizing region : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Arab leaders worried by Arafat's destabilizing region By Arieh O'Sullivan

TEL AVIV (October 15) - Most Arab leaders are not interested in waging war but rather in maintaining stability, but they fear that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's escalation of violence could spread and ignite the entire region, a senior security source said yesterday.

The source told military reporters that no Arab governments have taken any unusual security measures, nor have their militaries done anything out of the ordinary.

"None of the leaders wants war in the region ...Stability of the Middle East is in their interest and conflict between the Palestinians and Israel is against this," said the source.

"Arab leaders have reason to be concerned with the developments here. They have to look at what they can gain and what they can lose from a conflagration and most see losses. It will inflame their internal problems with their Moslem fundamentalists," he said.

Furthermore, the source said, if the summit in Sharm e-Sheikh does take place, Arafat will be going on a downswing after his wave of successes gained by playing his violence card.

He would prefer not to attend the summit, but was under heavy pressure from local Arab leaders who see the Palestinian troubles expanding into their countries.

The main reason he agreed to attend was in order not to jeopardize the Arab summit scheduled for Saturday in Cairo. Arafat also sees the summit as a way to "internationalize" peace negotiations and break the Israel-US-Palestinian formula.

"The Palestinian issue is the heart of the conflict. If it explodes, the risk of it expanding to second and third ring of nations is very high," the security source said. "I don't want to sound alarmist, but if our conflict with the Palestinians escalates to involve a lot more casualties... it could draw in more participants."

According to the IDF, Arafat's gains peaked last Monday, but actions by mobs on the ground have since taken some wind out of Arafat's sails. Three events in particular negatively impacted on the Palestinians: the desecration of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, and the lynching of two IDF soldiers in Ramallah, and the torching of the ancient synagogue in Jericho on Thursday.

There are indications that Arafat wants to lower the tone of violence in the territories, but no real attempts have been taken by him to implement this on the street, the senior security source said.

He added that the Palestinian leadership was "totally surprised" by the intensity of the IDF retaliation for the lynching. It was the first time that Israel had attacked the Palestinian Authority since the Oslo peace process began in 1993.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 14, 2000

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