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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

October 29, 2002

Arafat Names New Cabinet; Israeli Coalition Creaks

Here is the overview: Suicide bombers murder Israelis. Israel invades Arab areas to nab terrorists. Arafat says he is unable to do much because of Israel incursions. The US tells Israel to ease off. The suicide bombers reemerge to start their killing again. Arafat denounces terror and on and on and on.
Yasser Arafat named a new Palestinian cabinet and extended an olive branch to Israel on Tuesday as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon grappled with his worst political crisis since coming to power.

Arafat, under pressure at home and abroad for sweeping reforms, unveiled his new government in a speech to the Palestinian parliament that was at times defiant and conciliatory toward Israel after two years of bloodshed.

Arafat's speech coincided with a political fight in Israel that has brought Sharon's broad-based coalition close to collapse in a row over government funding for Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"They reoccupied our land and cities but failed to occupy our awareness, our determination, or to break our will or our souls," Arafat said at his battered headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

But the Palestinian president also repeated his condemnation of "all terrorist acts that harm civilians" and said the Palestinians had chosen peace as their "strategic option."

"So here we extend our hand to you in reconciliation and we extend the olive branch to resume the path that we began in Madrid and Oslo," Arafat said, referring to venues for peace talks that led to a historic interim accord with Israel in 1993.

Despite Arafat's words, his actions appeared unlikely to satisfy the United States or Israel. Both have called for a sweeping overhaul of the Palestinian Authority and have tried to sideline the Palestinian leader.