The Palestinian cabinet announced late Monday that it would
not approve the Palestinian High Court of Justice's decision
to release Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
leader Ahmed Saadat from prison in Jericho, where he has been
held for the last month under an agreement between the
Palestinians, Israel, the US and Britain.
The Palestinian cabinet's announcement expressed "respect for
the High Court of Justice's decision" but said its ruling to
release Saadat "cannot be implemented under these
circumstances because of Israeli threats."
On Monday, the Palestinian court, meeting in Gaza, ordered
the release of the secretary-general of the Popular Front for
the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Ahmed Saadat, saying
there was no evidence linking him to last October's murder of
Israel tourist minister Rechavam Ze'evi in a Jerusalem
However, the PFLP had announced that it was responsible for
the attack, and the four man squad that murdered Ze'evi are
all members of the PFLP.
Along with those four PFLP members convicted by a Palestinian
court for the Ze'evi murder, Saadat was imprisoned in a
Jericho jail under U.S. and British supervision as part of a
deal ending the Israeli siege of Palestinian Authority
President Yasser Arafat's Ramallah headquarters. Israel
agreed to concede its demand to arrest the six men in
exchange for their incarceration in a Palestinian jail, with
US and British warders ensuring they remain imprisoned.
Jerusalem officials said the court ruling violated the
understanding. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman,
Ra'anan Gissin, said bluntly, "If he is not brought to
justice, we will bring justice to him."
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel will ensure Saadat is
not released from jail in Jericho. "We will take all the
necessary steps so that it will not be possible to release a
person who was involved in murder, who ordered murder, and
whose organization carries out murders to this day," Sharon
Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said that if the
agreement was violated, then Israel would consider itself
free of its commitments to the Palestinian Authority and
would act according to its own interests.
In Washington, a State Department spokesman said, "We expect
the Palestinians will work with the Israelis rather than take
Also on Monday, construction began on a new Jewish
neighborhood in southeastern Jerusalem. Several hundred
apartments and a luxury hotel complex are planned for the
site in the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Jabel
The project is headed by former Jerusalem police chief Aryeh
Amit, who told Israel Radio that all the required permits had
been obtained well before work began. The land was bought
legally by Jews and the development plans were approved many
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert dismissed claims by Arab
residents of the area that the property is theirs. "If it had
been up to me, this neighborhood would have been built long
ago," he said.
CIA Director arrived on Monday to discuss revamping the
Palestinian security services, consolidating them to make
them more effective. Doing so, according to U.S. thinking,
will help reduce Palestinian terrorist attacks and pave the
way toward diplomatic progress.
Sharon has made clear that Arafat must be sidelined as part
of the reforms.
Sharon conveyed this message when he met last Friday with
William Burns, the assistant U.S. secretary of state for Near
Eastern affairs. He repeated the stance again Sunday to the
European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, who was
in the region to try to organize a Middle East peace
conference in July.
Solana rejected the conditions set by Sharon. Israel "cannot
set conditions regarding reforms that Yasser Arafat has to
carry out," Solana said.
As part of his much-publicized reforms, Arafat said recently
that he wanted to change the composition of the Palestinian
Cabinet. He offered Cabinet spots to four terrorist
organizations, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for
the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the
Liberation of Palestine, but all turned him down. Now it
appears that his new Cabinet will look very much like the old
one, with a few cosmetic changes.
No date has been set for Palestinian elections. Arafat has
refused to give up overall control of the security services,
saying that he must serve as interior minister, with a new
security commander as his deputy. Arafat also refuses to give
up control of Palestinian Authority finances and refuses to
appoint a prime minister.
Analysts say that Arafat came under fierce criticism for his
willingness to allow six Palestinians to be jailed under
British and American supervision in Jericho and to allow the
exile of 13 Palestinians from the Church of the Nativity in
Bethlehem. Now he wants to show Israelis that Operation
Defensive Shield, which so deeply humiliated him, has not
ended terrorism. He also continues to believe that violence
and terror are the most effective means of achieving
"The whole idea is to replace the Arafat system of terror,
corruption and internal repression, and it's obvious to us
that Arafat can't change the system he personifies," says
Danny Ayalon, the prime minister's foreign policy adviser and
ambassador-designate to Washington.