Thursday, October 28, 2004

Arafat

Something significant must be happening when France Inter's Bernard Guetta departs from his usual carefully prepared script, instead having a question and answer session with the programme's main presenter.

22:00 News about Arafat's health has broken

7:10 BBC R4 have someone from an Arab-US organisation and a journalist from Ha'aretz.

Then over to France Inter, who have the vice-Foreign Minister from Ramallah. Skip the review of the French press, which has nothing on this. Which is just as well, since the BBC have reshuffled their schedule for a long interview with a whisle-blower from UK defence intelligence.

The vice-FM cannot confirm whether Arafat attended morning prayers and says they are very worried about him. Israel is allowing him to leave, but refusing to say whether they would allow him to return.

In the event of Arafat's disparition (a euphemism usually meaning death), it is said that a collegiate form of leadership could emerge, featuring Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen ) and Ahmed Qurei or Qureia (Abu Alla ) .  Marwan Barghouti, now in an Israeli prison, is a name also mentioned. Time to dust off the old files on the struggles within the Palestinian leadership.

'An opinion poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research this month found that Mr Arafat remained the most popular Palestinian leader for 35% of those polled, while ...Marwan Barghouti was second with 20%. Mr Abbas, who has virtually no public recognition, scored 3%.'

'Mr Abbas hopes to demote or remove Arafat loyalists such as ... Saeb Erekat... He wants to appoint Mohammed Dahlan minister of interior affairs' 'Mr Dahlan ...is in his early 40s' April 15, 2003, The Guardian

The replacement of Arafat could remove an excuse from Israel and the US. On the other hand, his sucessor(s) would lack his 'charisma'.

Update The BBC profiles most of the main players  here and has the reaction of the press here. Danny Rubinstein was the Ha'aretz man I mentioned before.

In the afternoon, Israel says it will allow Arafat to return.

18:00 Arafat is to leave for treatment in France.

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