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Jerusalem Goes WiFi Monday


On 6 p.m. Monday Jerusalem will kick off its WiFi wireless Internet program with stands, music and happenings into the night. The first phase of the program will provide wireless Internet connectivity in the Safra Square, Ben-Yehuda Mall, and Nachlat Shiva areas. The service will be free of charge for the first year. In coming months, additional areas around the city will go live as well, providing easy Internet access to persons with compatible laptops and palm devices.

A World Without Arafat

By VOA News, & Ha'aretz

Israel's regular Sunday Cabinet meeting took place as usual, and the issues under discussion would, under other circumstances, have been routine. What to do about Yasir Arafat has been a common topic for a succession of Israeli governments. But the particulars of this discussion were different, and focused on plans for burying the Palestinian leader, who is undergoing a battery of tests in a Paris hospital for a mysterious ailment.

Ariel Sharon was reported to have told Cabinet ministers that, as long as he is prime minister, he would never allow Arafat to be buried in Jerusalem. The Palestinian leader has long expressed the desire to be buried at the site known to Muslims as Haram a-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as the Temple Mount. "As long as I'm here - and I'm not planning to leave any time soon - Arafat will not be buried in Jerusalem," Sharton said. Several right-wing Knesset members said last week that Arafat must not be buried in Jerusalem. MK Uri Ariel even said that "tens of thousands" of people would bodily prevent such a burial.

Rumors continue to abound as to Arafat's true condition. CNN reported that he has leukemia; others say he has a virus, and still others have raised different possibilities. A London Arabic-language newspaper reported that doctors are investigating the possibility that Arafat may have been poisoned. Most reports agree that he will never be able to return to day-to-day control of the Palestinian Authority.

Arafat is said to be directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Israeli citizens, untold numbers of Arabs and more than 100 U.S. citizens, including two U.S. diplomats. Sharon said in 1995, "I don't know anyone other than Arafat who has as much civilian Jewish blood on his hands since the time of the Nazis." Binyamin Netanyahu, who wrote a book on how to fight terrorism, has attributed the phenomenon of "terrorist plane hijackings" to Arafat and his Fatah organization in the late 1960's, after which, Netanyahu said, "it very quickly became an international plague."

Israeli security officials worry that a funeral procession through Jerusalem would bring huge crowds, and create a situation that would be hard, if not impossible, to control. In anticipation of his death, Israel is also making contingency plans for how to handle the chaos that some predict will erupt, should various Palestinian factions begin fighting over who should succeed the Palestinian leader. Many Israeli officials believe Arafat is so ill that he would never return to power.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said Arafat was "much better, more cheerful, more lively and less tired." No Palestinian official has suggested anything other than Arafat would recover, and would return to office. Nor have they admitted publicly that they might be planning a path to follow, should Arafat die or be incapacitated. The Palestinian leadership has met during the past few days to reassure Palestinians that their institutions are functioning normally.

On Saturday, former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas chaired a meeting of the PLO, and on Sunday, current Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia chaired a meeting of the Palestine National Security Council. On both occasions, reporters were invited to the session, and, on both occasions, the chair normally occupied by Arafat was left vacant, seen as a sign that he is expected to return.

Arafat is hospitalized in a Paris hospital, where he is expected to remain for several weeks or until he dies. Senior Palestinian Authority sources said Arafat has lost some of his mental capacities and cannot function. Some doubt that he will be capable of resuming his position as PA leader, even if his health recovers to some extent.

The reports that Arafat's mental state may have deteriorated are worrying Palestinian leaders at home far more than his physical health. Reports say that after his collapse last Wednesday, Arafat lost his mental functioning. In some cases he did not recognize people who came to visit him.

Diplomatic sources said last week he even had trouble recognizing Abu Mazen and Abu Ala who and in some cases his speech was incoherent and confused, but there is no clear opinion on whether such lapses might be permanent or temporary. However, there are grave doubts as to whether, even after a relative recovery, he will be able to make decisions or give orders or even to understand what is happening around him, sources said.

Background / Arafat the Wizard, Arafat the Goat

By Ha'aretz

For Palestinians, Yasir Arafat has for decades been the grand sorcerer and inescapable symbol of a virtual nation, effortlessly conjuring myth and humiliation, re-invention and religious fervor, military trappings and human need into an entity in which he was, for all intents and purposes, the state. Acutely tuned to the longings and goals - some realistic, others self-defeating - of the people he championed - Arafat was all things to all Palestinians, the only leader that Palestine has ever really had.

As Israel's political quarantine of Arafat took concrete form in the shabby ruins of the Muqata, his bombed-out Ramallah headquarters, his image as the living martyr, the tortured saint resonated with new clarity in refugee camps and blockaded towns. In a form of Dorian Gray in reverse, marchers carried younger and younger pictures of Arafat, as his months in captivity turned to years.

"We are nothing without him," a Gaza woman told a local television reporter as Arafat boarded a helicopter Friday for the first leg of a flight to Paris for emergency medical treatment. "No one is capable of filling the roles of the Re'is," said Palestinian official Sufyan Abu Zaydeh Sunday, referring to Arafat by his title of president. "The concept of 'Who will replace him,' simply does not exist."

For the Israelis, even those he charmed and befriended during the Oslo years, an equal and opposite consensus has been forged with respect to Arafat. If some Palestinians believe that he has achieved much of what Palestine has become in 40 years, many dovish Israelis see his actions over the past four as having squandered those gains, rendering him, in effect, a remarkable failure.

In the end, Arafat has become, for Israelis, the butt of scorn, of bottomless vituperation, even of leftist jokes. So united have Israelis of all stripes become in their antipathy toward Arafat, that even as he lay near death, headlines in major newspapers were flippant, comedians - who might well have respected him prior to the intifada - merciless. "ON HIS WAY OUT," crowed the enormous front-page headline in Yediot Achronot, Israel's largest-circulation daily - a play on words fully referring as much to Arafat's apparent one foot in the grave, as to the evacuation to France.

Later in the day, comedians not noted for right-wing leanings held a full-out roast for Arafat on the Mishak Machur comedy program on Israel Channel Two television. "It's not cancer that he has - it's AIDS," said one, to the delighted applause and laughter of a studio audience. "You can't screw five million people for so long and wind up with just cancer - it's AIDS."

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