US President George W. Bush telephoned Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak early this week and said Palestinian Authority
Chairman Yasser Arafat had misled him about his commitment to
Bush said that he "was led to believe [Arafat] was willing to
join us in the fight on terror. I took him at his word."
This disappointment has fueled a US reassessment of relations
with Arafat and the PA. Arafat is already persona non
grata at the White House, and the US has not asked Israel
to let him out of Ramallah where he has been confined for
The capture of 50 tons of smuggled offensive weapons aboard
the Karine A apparently caused President Bush's
awakening. Vice President Dick Cheney also echoed Bush's
disappointment on talk shows and said he does not believe
Arafat's denials regarding the ship.
Mubarak, too, said he has been angry with Arafat over the
smuggling attempt. The ship would have passed through the
Suez Canal and had Egyptian sailors aboard. Mubarak has told
visitors he rarely speaks to Arafat anymore and their
relationship has deteriorated.
European Union officials, however, threw beleaguered
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat a lifeline this
week, saying said Israel needs Arafat as a partner both to
eradicate terror and to work towards peace.
The declaration by EU foreign ministers at the end of a
meeting in Brussels is in stark contrast to the tone of
statements from Washington. The statement that emerged from
the EU meeting read: "Israel needs the Palestinian Authority
and its elected president, Yasser Arafat, as a partner to
negotiate with, both in order to eradicate terrorism and to
work towards peace. Their capacity to fight terrorism must
not be weakened."
At the same time, EU ministers called on the PA and Arafat to
"do everything to put an end to terrorism and the armed
intifadah, dismantle all the terrorist networks and arrest
and prosecute the perpetrators of terrorist acts."
One diplomatic official said, however, the declaration is
obviously a step back from the Laeken declaration of EU heads
of state last month, which for the first time called on the
PA to dismantle the "terrorist networks" of Hamas and Islamic
Jihad and declare an end to the violence.
This week's declaration, like the one at Laeken, included a
censure of Israel.
The EU foreign ministers also complained about Israel's
destruction of facilities built with their financial aid, and
threatening to demand compensation. This includes the PA
airport in Gaza and a building and equipment of the PA
Broadcast Authority. Foreign Minister Peres said that Israel
would tally the destruction of property that had been donated
by the Europeans.
However Peres's remarks elicited an angry reaction from
Minister without Portfolio Dan Naveh, who was appointed to
head a panel to assess the overall financial cost to Israel
of the 16 months of violence.
Naveh said Peres made a "grave diplomatic mistake" by
agreeing to even discuss the matter. He said there is
"absolutely no room" to talk of compensation to the EU.
"On principle we should tell the Europeans that all claims
should be directed toward the Palestinians, who started the
war and continue to wage it," Naveh said. "We are the victims
of the terror. All we are doing is employing the use of self
defense guaranteed under international law. We have to defend
ourselves, even on their territory."
Naveh said his panel will come up with an analysis of the
direct and indirect costs of the violence, including money
paid by the NII to terror victims, money paid to restore
property damaged in attacks, and also estimates of the loss
in tourism revenue and loss of investments.
According to Naveh, even though the establishment of the
panel had nothing to do with the EU projects, the panel's
findings could be used in replying to various compensation
Naveh said one option that will be considered will be to use
the more than NIS 1 billion in tax monies due the PA that
Israel has collected but not transferred to the PA to defray
the cost of the violence.