ARAFAT V ABBAS

by MONITOR

IT has been said of Yasser Arafat that he never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Currently those who subscribe to this aphorism will be feeling justified by the row that has developed between Mr Arafat and his prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas. In agreeing a couple of months ago that he should for the first time appoint a prime minister, Mr Arafat nonetheless retained the power to approve Mr Abbas' choice of ministers; the disagreement that erupted at the weekend stemmed from Arafat's refusal to agree to the man Abbas named to control Israel's internal security forces - a key post in relation to any resumption of peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. If the dispute is not settled by tomorrow, the procedural rules require that Mr Arafat should name a new prime minister. Perhaps this is the outcome he wants in order to show his independence of pressure from America and Israel, who both approve of Mr Abbas. But a better solution would be for Abbas to retain his new office while agreeing on a compromise candidate for the security job. In the meantime the Israel government has not exactly helped a delicate situation by the resumption of its military incursion into the Gaza strip, killing five Palestinians and wounding at least 40 others. The target was a leader of the Hamas militant organisation, who was not found; as the tanks retired a Hamas rocket was fired into the Israeli town of Sderot, delivering an unmistakable message.

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