ShareThis Page

Arafat: Militants must back down

| Thursday, Aug. 28, 2003

JERUSALEM -- Palestinian President Yasser Arafat called on militant groups Wednesday to reinstate a shattered cease-fire and pledged to crack down on armed Palestinian factions -- but only if Israel stopped hunting down their leaders.

The Israeli government immediately ridiculed Arafat's offer as a sham, and even a senior official of the radical Muslim organization Hamas warned the Palestinian Authority chairman to back off from challenging the various militia groups.

Still, it was Arafat's first public call for action following the spiraling violence of the past two weeks, which saw a Palestinian suicide bomber kill 21 passengers on a bus and Israeli attack helicopters launch missile strikes on Hamas operatives.

From his battered compound in Ramallah, Arafat urged "all political factions and forces to recommit themselves to national unity and solidarity to protect our people and to commit themselves to the 'hudna'" -- the Arabic term for the temporary truce that the main militant organizations declared June 29 and formally abandoned last Thursday.

Arafat also called on the United States to intervene in order to get the peace plan known as the "road map" back on track, an ambitious initiative that envisions an independent Palestinian state but that has yet to get far off the ground. So far, neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian side has been willing to make the concessions demanded by the plan.

Arafat's public statement echoed similar calls by senior Palestinian officials for a restoration of the hudna. His remarks provided a rare show of accord, at least outwardly, between him and the government of his appointed prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, whose authority Arafat has been accused of trying to undermine.

Abbas is perceived as a moderate willing to try to rein in militants, but analysts say that he has been continually thwarted by Arafat's refusal to relinquish control of most of the Palestinian security forces. In recent days, Arafat has tried to shore up his power base by naming loyalists to security-related positions that would effectively sideline Abbas' own minister for security, Mohammed Dahlan.

Under increasing heat from the power struggle with Arafat and from militant factions that view his diplomatic engagement of Israel as treasonous, Abbas convened a meeting of his cabinet in Gaza City yesterday to discuss the recent turn of events. Aides said he did not meet with leaders of militant groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Abbas is scheduled to present a report of his first 100 days in office to Palestinian legislators next Monday, a gathering that some fear could turn into a public dressing-down of the prime minister. Many on the Palestinian street have demanded his resignation, saying that his cooperation with Israel and the United States has earned nothing in return but Israeli raids on the West Bank and "targeted killings" in Gaza.

Abdulaziz Rantisi, the leader of Hamas, warned that any exhortation from the Palestinian Authority, whether by Arafat or Abbas, to clamp down on militant groups was "a very dangerous call."

The Israeli government also poured scorn on Arafat's comments and declared that it would continue pursuing extremists because the Palestinians had refused to, even after last week's suicide bombing in Jerusalem, one of the worst such attacks in nearly three years of conflict.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me