NABIL SHAATH: PEACEKEEPING FORCE NEEDED TO REPLACE PALESTINIAN POLICE
DESTROYED BY ISRAEL; BUSH SHOULD STOP DEMONIZING ARAFAT
Nabil Shaath, minister of planning for the Palestinian Authority, is one
of Yasser Arafat's top aides. He spoke from Cairo with Global Viewpoint
editor Nathan Gardels on April 8.
NATHAN GARDELS: What should U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's
agenda be during his trip to the Middle East?
NABIL SHAATH: He should, first of all, stop the massacre of Palestinians
and do what his president has demanded: Get the Israelis out now. Then,
he needs to press for quick implementation of the Tenet and Mitchell plans
so we can, at last, return to political negotiations on a final settlement
based on the Saudi initiative, which is now the unanimously approved Arab
Powell has to meet with Arafat. If he doesn't meet with Arafat, whom is
he going to talk peace with -- with the man who started the invasion?
He needs to meet with both parties. The only person who can speak for
the Palestinians is Yasser Arafat. Crown Prince Abdullah and King Mohammed
(of Morocco) told him this again when he met them on Monday.
In the meantime, Powell will have a new task: putting together an international
peacekeeping force on the ground until the Palestinian police force, now
destroyed by the Israeli invaders, can be rebuilt.
GARDELS: The Israelis have seized documents they say show that
Arafat approved purchasing materials for suicide bombers and paid terrorists.
What do you make of these documents?
SHAATH: The Israelis are not the policemen of Palestine. They have
no juridical rights to search through anybody's papers and decide what
is a crime and what is not.
Be that as it may, these papers don't prove anything. Two of them are
about financial aid given to families of men that were not bombers, but
people that Israel decided to kill through extra-judicial assassination.
No court indicted them for anything. The amounts paid to their families
posthumously were minimal -- $1,000 for five families.
Then there is this paper which shows a request for money to buy explosive
materials supposedly addressed to the financial officer of the Palestinian
police force. Yet, there are no markings or signatures of approval or
disapproval by any Palestinian authority.
This is the smoking gun? The full proof of culpability and guilt claimed
by the prime minister of Israel and the justification for his invasion?
I don't think the world is so gullible.
GARDELS: If and when Powell meets with Arafat, he will say ''this
is it, this is the absolute last chance to crack down on terrorism or
we can't stop the Israelis from coming in again.'' What will Arafat say
SHAATH: He will say that, despite what President Bush says -- because
apparently he doesn't have anybody who keeps track -- I have spoken (ital)
in Arabic (unital) several times, the last of which was Dec. 16 last year,
calling for an end to all violence, especially suicide bombings.
Arafat will say he is committed to maintaining full calm and in fact was
able to do that for 24 days after that December call before Israeli assassinations,
killing and bombings ruptured his efforts.
Arafat will say that he is now in a hostage situation, cut off from the
world, with his security apparatus destroyed in all the cities Israeli
forces have invaded, his officers decommissioned and sent back to their
villages. Any capacity for enforcement of anything has been destroyed,
he will tell Powell.
To contribute anything to end to the violence, Arafat will say he needs
first of all to be able to escape the siege and humiliation he now suffers.
Then he will tell Powell what should be obvious: He needs his police force
rebuilt again if he is expected to reestablish order and crack down on
Finally, President Arafat will tell Powell that we are committed to the
Saudi peace plan. We worked hard to get unanimous Arab support for it.
It is an historic offer -- so far met with one response by Sharon: invasion.
Powell must be able to hear that message and understand it without continuing
the daily demonization of Arafat by President Bush. Then there will be
a chance to get out of this tragic mess.
GARDELS: Has Sharon's strategy to isolate Arafat and destroy his
SHAATH: Absolutely. Arafat today is the most powerful leader in
the whole Arab world. His constituency now is not just the Palestinians,
but every one of the 300 million Arabs.
(c) 2002, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate
International, a division of Tribune Media Services
For immediate release (Distributed 4/8/02)