MI chief: Arafat hoping Bush will be defeated

25/07/2004 IDF Military Intelligence chief Major General Aharon Ze’evi said Sunday that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat is biding his time until November, in hopes that U.S. President George W. Bush will lose his bid for re-election and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government will fall by then, Army Radio reported.

On Saturday, Arafat expressed confidence in his prime minister Saturday, as unrest in the Gaza Strip went into a second week, shaking the Palestinian government and Arafat’s regime. In his first public comments since the upheavals in Gaza spilled over into a political confrontation with Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia last week, Arafat denied the government was in a crisis, and said he had approved changes in the Cabinet. But Ze’evi, speaking to the weekly cabinet meeting, said that open Palestinian opposition to Arafat’s policies was mounting in the Gaza Strip. The same intensity of criticism was not being felt in the West Bank, Ze’evi added. „Arafat is now waiting for the month of August in the hope that President Bush will be defeated in the presidential elections and turned out of his office,” Ze’evi told the cabinet. Arafat also expects that Sharon will be toppled from the premiership, he said. Sharon then responded with a smile. „Arafat wants to see me driven out, as well? I thought that only in Israel people were wishing for my downfall.” Arafat plays down standoff with Qureia Arafat played down the standoff with Qureia, who submitted his resignation a week ago. Although Arafat rejected the resignation letter, Qureia has said he is firm in his determination to quit unless his Cabinet is given effective power over the security forces. „No, no, there is no crisis,” Arafat said after meeting Arab diplomats in his headquarters. „There is no problem over the interior minister. There is a proposal by the Palestinian Legislative Council to carry out some changes within the Cabinet, and we gave our approval for such changes,” the Palestinian leader said. „The prime minister has the full right to propose anything he wants, and whatever is suitable for him. I will support whatever he decides. I highly and fully trust him,” Arafat said, briefly answering questions from reporters. Arafat told legislators earlier this week that the interior minister would have more control over the security forces, but no practical steps have yet been taken to give more authority to the minister or the Cabinet. His pledge to empower the government came after the Legislative Council passed a resolution calling on him to appoint a new Cabinet with control over the security forces in Gaza, where demonstrators and kidnappers had created a state of chaos. Earlier on Saturday, masked militants set fire and destroyed a Palestinian police station south of Gaza City, in an apparent protest against Arafat’s lack of reform of the security services. Witnesses to the fire and local security officials said the unidentified militants stormed the police station in the town of Zwaida, about seven kilometers south of Gaza City, smashed furniture, then set the building alight. No one was injured, but damage was caused to a town council building nearby. The building was sparsely occupied since the raid happened before normal working hours. No group immediately claimed responsibility. Also on Saturday, in Khan Yunis, in the southern sector of Gaza, about 20 militants of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades took over the building of the local administration. Witnesses said militants from Arafat’s Fatah fcommandeered a government building in the Gaza Strip and demanded the Palestinian leader fire a nephew recently appointed as security chief. A spokesman for the barricaded militants, Abu Moussa said, „We ask Arafat to fire this man, Musa Arafat, and all the symbols of corruption in the state.” They left peacefully after saying Arafat had agreed to reinstate comrades dismissed from the national security forces. BPI-info