Lead­er­ship ten­sions flare on Arafat death ’ver­sary

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Days af­ter the 12th an­niver­sary of the death of Yasser Arafat, Pales­tinian lead­ers de­scended into new re­crim­i­na­tions over who may have been in­volved in the demise of the for­mer pres­i­dent. Com­ing two weeks be­fore a meet­ing that is ex­pected to over­haul the lead­er­ship of Fatah, the party of Arafat and Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, the ac­cu­sa­tions un­der­score a grow­ing an­i­mos­ity that threat­ens the move­ment’s sta­bil­ity.

Speak­ing at a me­mo­rial on Thurs­day in the West Bank city of Ra­mal­lah, Ab­bas said he knew who was be­hind Arafat’s death and that an in­ves­ti­gat­ing panel would soon re­veal its find­ings. “The result will come out in the near­est time pos­si­ble and you will be sur­prised to know who did it,” Ab­bas said. Al­though he stopped short of nam­ing sus­pects, Ab­bas’s com­ments were widely seen as re­fer­ring to his main political ri­val Mo­ham­mad Dahlan, a for­mer Fatah se­cu­rity chief.

Dahlan, a fierce Ab­bas critic who lives in self-im­posed ex­ile in the United Arab Emi­rates, took to Face­book yes­ter­day to point the finger at Ab­bas. “He (Ab­bas) is not qual­i­fied to make ac­cu­sa­tions and he per­son­ally is in the cir­cle of ac­cu­sa­tion and the sole ben­e­fi­ciary of Abu Ammar’s dis­ap­pear­ance,” Dahlan wrote, re­fer­ring to Arafat by his nick­name. Ab­bas’s of­fice could not be reached for com­ment.

Of­fi­cials within Fatah are grow­ing in­creas­ingly im­pa­tient with Ab­bas’ lead­er­ship and ri­val groups have been emerg­ing ahead of a party congress, the first since 2009, set to take place this month. Dahlan, 55, re­tains in­flu­ence within Fatah’s revo­lu­tion­ary coun­cil and cen­tral com­mit­tee - the equiv­a­lent of Fatah’s par­lia­ment. Ab­bas, 81, is ex­pected at the party congress to push for the elec­tion of a new cen­tral com­mit­tee and revo­lu­tion­ary coun­cil that would be free of Dahlan loy­al­ists.

Saudi Ara­bia, Egypt and other Arab states have been pres­sur­ing Ab­bas to re­solve di­vi­sions in Fatah and with the ri­val Ha­mas move­ment. Neigh­bor­ing states and diplo­mats fear the fes­ter­ing di­vi­sions could lead to con­flict. Arafat, who signed the 1993 Oslo in­terim peace ac­cord with Is­rael but led a deadly up­ris­ing af­ter sub­se­quent talks broke down in 2000, died in 2004 aged 75 in a French hos­pi­tal four weeks af­ter fall­ing ill.

The of­fi­cial cause of death was a mas­sive stroke, but French doc­tors were un­able at the time to de­ter­mine the origin of the ill­ness and no au­topsy was car­ried out. Pales­tinian lead­ers have blamed Is­rael. Is­rael de­nies in­volve­ment. A French in­ves­ti­ga­tion was opened in 2012 at the re­quest of Arafat’s widow, and his re­mains were ex­humed for tests that were ex­am­ined sep­a­rately by French, Rus­sian and Swiss ex­perts. The Swiss re­ported their re­sults were con­sis­tent with but not proof of poi­son­ing by re­ac­tive polo­nium. The French con­cluded he did not die of poi­son­ing and Rus­sian ex­perts were re­ported to have found no traces of polo­nium in his body. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was closed in 2015. — Reuters

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