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May 21, 2003

Palestinians: Arafat ouster would force Abbas to quit

If he stays, he is Arafat's puppet; if he goes he is Arafat's puppet. If Arafat stays, nothing changes. The Palestinian plan to keep Arafat around so he can steal more money and continue terrorism
Expelling Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat will only complicate matters for PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his new cabinet, PA officials in Ramallah warned Monday.

"Abbas will have to pack and leave the same night Arafat is deported," one official said. "There is no reason why Abbas should stay."

He said Abbas, who is seen by many Palestinians as an American puppet, would face accusations of colluding with Israel and the US in getting rid of Arafat.

"The Palestinian street will not accept Abbas and [Minister for Security Affairs Muhammad] Dahlan if Arafat is removed by force," he said. "Arafat remains as popular as ever because most Palestinians believe Abbas and Dahlan were imposed on the PA leadership to serve Israel's security interests."

Another PA official said that deporting Arafat to the Gaza Strip or to any Arab country would lead to an upsurge in violence and total anarchy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "Who said that the attacks would stop if President Arafat is in Gaza City or southern Sudan," he said.

"On the contrary, we will have more suicide attacks against Israel. In addition to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Fatah will also resume its attacks to retaliate against the expulsion of its leader.
"This would be a big gift to the Islamic groups.

Abbas and Dahlan will never be able to reign in the extremists if something happens to Arafat."
PA sources pointed out that the majority of the commanders of the PA security forces, who remain loyal to Arafat, have already made it clear that they refuse to take orders from Dahlan.

A top Fatah activist in the West Bank threatened to topple Abbas's cabinet if Arafat is expelled or harmed. "We will declare an all-out war on Israel and Abbas's cabinet," he said. "We don't want another [former Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army commander] Antoine Lahad here."

Meanwhile, it was business as usual at Arafat's compound in Ramallah Monday, and he seemed unperturbed by rumors that Israel was mulling expelling him.

However, PA security officials said they were expecting "something big" to happen on Sunday night. "People here were very nervous," a member of Arafat's Force 17 said. "We were expecting the tanks to come and we didn't sleep all night."

Speaking to reporters at the entrance to his battered compound after receiving a group of French parliamentarians, a smiling Arafat said in response to a question about his possible deportation: "This is not the first time they talk about this. I'm committed to the peace treaty I signed with my late partner [Yitzhak] Rabin. I'm committed to the road map plan, and we are waiting for the Quartet to succeed in convincing the Israelis to accept the plan."