Arafat deposes Sari Nusseibeh as Jerusalem chief (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Akiva Eldar 12/20/02)
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Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has taken over
responsibility for the Jerusalem portfolio by deposing prominent
Palestinian peace activist Prof. Sari Nusseibeh.
Nussibeh, president of Al Quds University, hammered out a peace plan
with former Shin Bet chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Ami Ayalon earlier this
Sources in Nusseibeh´s office last night said Arafat proposed that
the official serve as one of nine people on an executive council that
would handle the daily management of East Jerusalem. Arafat named
himself as head of that committee as well as chairman of a broader
committee of more than 30 members that will serve as a quasi-city
Nusseibeh has yet to decide whether he will accept Arafat´s offer.
His aides said he is considering leaving politics altogether.
A senior Palestinian official who asked to remain unnamed said that
Nusseibeh´s removal and the establishment of the two committees
appear to be part of a pattern of eccentric behavior exhibited by
Arafat. The official mentioned, for example, Arafat´s announcement
that East Jerusalem publisher Hanna Siniora would be the PA´s
ambassador in Washington, but when the prospective envoy arrived in
the U.S. capital, Arafat backed down from the appointment.
Recent visitors to Arafat´s office in the Muqata said his behavior
has become strange. They said he was not focused, spoke in a confused
manner, and his lips are shaking again. His doctors attribute the
shaking lips to neurological damage that followed an airplane crash
in the Libyan desert that Arafat survived.
Nusseibeh was appointed the PLO´s representative in East Jerusalem
more than a year ago after the sudden death of Faisal Husseini. In
the past year, Nusseibeh has played a high-profile role as a leading
Palestinian moderate, participating in countless meetings with
Israeli peace activists. He openly called for an end to the attacks
on Israeli civilians, and was showered with condemnations by Fatah
leaders and the PA as well as by Public Security Minister Uzi Landau,
who ordered his offices closed at the university alleging they served
as PA offices.
During the past year, Nusseibeh and Ayalon worked out a draft peace
plan based on the 1967 borders without a right of return for
Palestinian refugees. The paper was presented publicly a few months
ago at a modest ceremony in Athens attended by former U.S. president
Bill Clinton and the Greek foreign minister.
Yesterday, however, Nusseibeh issued a statement saying that in
protest of the arrest of Musa Balawneh, a former militant-turned-
peace activist in Nusseibeh´s "People´s Peace Campaign," which hopes
to get one million signatures on the Nusseibeh-Ayalon plan, Nusseibeh
is ceasing his peace activist work in the Palestinian community, his
dialogue with Israel, and his efforts to transform the armed intifada
into a non-violent civil disobedience campaign - until Balawneh is
Balawneh was arrested Wednesday night at a checkpoint near Nablus
while on his way to a meeting of peace activists in Ramallah.
According to Nusseibeh, Balawneh has not been accused of anything nor
informed of the reason for the arrest. Balawneh´s travel permit,
according to the Nusseibeh statement, was issued by Israel at
Nusseibeh´s request and with Israeli understanding that he would not
be intercepted or arrested.
"Therefore, Nusseibeh declares the cessation of all his peace efforts
in the Palestinian community and dialogue activities until this
matter is resolved properly and without further delay," the statement
Nusseibeh remains "committed to his principles, but... the very
credibility of the peace efforts is seriously undermined by such
actions, which seem to reflect bad faith," according to the
statement. Nusseibeh "holds the anti-peace lobby in the government of
Israel responsible for such actions that undermine the efforts of
peacemaking." (© Copyright 2002 Ha´aretz 12/20/02)
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