Newsletter : 6fax0122.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Jan. 22, 1996 V4, #11
All the News the Big Guys Missed
President Yasir Arafat
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
The longtime Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, was elected
president of the Palestinian Autonomy Authority on Saturday.
Palestinians and other supporters have been calling Arafat "Mr.
President" for years. Now, it is official. Under the latest
agreement with Israel, he will be known as president of the
Executive Authority of the Palestinian Interim Self Governing
Authority, which also includes the new Palestinian Council and a
cabinet Arafat will appoint.
Actually, the English version of the agreement provided by the
Israeli government uses the Arabic word "ra'ees," which is usually
translated as president. Israel appears to still be reluctant to
use the word "president," but Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres
has said he likes the Arabic word "ra'ees," which can also be
translated as "head" or "chairman.
This final measure of legitimacy comes to Arafat at the age of 62,
after a long career as the leader first of the Fatah terrorist
movement, then of the Palestine Liberation Organization and for the
last year and a half of the Palestinian Autonomy Authority, based
Over the years he has masterminded attacks on airliners, schools
and other facilities to draw attention to the plight of the
Palestinian people, and pressure Israel to recognize Palestinian
rights. That effort culminated with the seven-year Palestinian
uprising, called the intifada, in the late 1980s and early '90s.
He has had a series of conflicts with other Arab leaders. And he
has several times narrowly escaped political defeat and even death.
After supporting Iraq in the 1990 Gulf War, he joined the Middle
East peace process at the Madrid Conference, and when that bogged
down, in 1993, he sent negotiators to secret talks in Oslo, Norway
which resulted in the first Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
For that effort he and his Israeli counterparts, Shimon Peres and
Yitzhak Rabin, won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Now, elected president of the Gaza-Based Palestinian Authority, and
still chairman of the Tunis-based PLO, Arafat would appear to be at
the peak of his power, so says Palestinian journalist and analyst
"I think that it will increase his power locally, and it will
increase his position internationally, and most important it will
also strengthen him in his negotiations with Israel in the future."
But at the same time, al-Khatib and other experts say the new
Palestinian Council could put some limits on Arafat's power,
even though it will be controlled by his own party. He is
accustomed to ruling almost single-handedly, and has been
criticized for not delegating authority even to his most trusted
aides. Some analysts say that while the election increased
Arafat's legitimacy, it might have reduced his authority by forcing
him to share power with the new council. But others say the
council's power is so far only theoretical, and will in fact depend
on what al-Khatib calls the "dynamic" between the council and the
new president, which is yet to be seen.
Violence Tags Palestinian Election
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
A Palestinian police officer has shot and killed a Palestinian
election worker in a West Bank village, apparently in a dispute
over the counting of ballots from Saturday's elections.
The peaceful atmosphere of these elections was shattered during the
vote counting at a polling station in Salem Village near Nablus.
According to Israel Radio and the Palestinian police, the local
election supervisor, Hashem Nasser, 31, told Palestinian policemen
to leave the room during the counting. Twenty-five-year-old officer
Iyad Shtayh became angry, drew his weapon and shot Nasser dead.
The shooting came near the end of a process that was remarkably
free of violence, in spite of concerns about possible disruptions by
militant Palestinians or Israelis. There were some complaints
of intimidation of voters by Palestinian police, election workers
and campaigners. But the violations were relatively minor. The
voting in two Gaza districts was declared void after disputes over
voter lists. And many east Jerusalem voters were scared away from
the polls by the heavy Israeli police presence.
But some problems were of a more positive nature -- such as the
many polling stations where voter turnout was so high that ballot
boxes became full, and election workers and official observers
had to devise ways to store the ballots until the polls closed
and it was time to count them.
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