Sources: Jerusalem status behind Arafat-Husseini rift


JERUSALEM (June 21) - An open rift between Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and his chief representative in Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini, stems from divergent views about the city's future status and not only from a dispute over allegedly missing funds, sources said yesterday.

Arafat's proposal that Husseini become the PA's minister in charge of Wakfs was linked to the Palestinian leader's wish to replace him with "someone who will go along with the formula worked out by Mahmoud Abbas and MK Yossi Beilin (Labor) designating Jerusalem's outlying Abu Dis district as the PA's capital.

Husseini dismissed this account as totally inaccurate. "People are talking about something they know nothing about," he said.

Asked about the proposal that he be in charge of the Wakfs, he said, "I don't believe it is on the agenda."

The tension between Arafat and Husseini was said to have exploded at the last PA cabinet meeting. Husseini was quoted as having said, "If you ask me where are the $5 million that allegedly are missing, why don't you ask your aides where are the millions of dollars they have been stealing every day?"

At that point, Arafat reportedly ordered Husseini to leave, but Husseini refused saying, "This isn't your home. It's a Palestinian house."

Husseini said he would not comment on cabinet proceedings.

This confrontation evidently occurred in an atmosphere of intense internal rivalry and jockeying for position among PA figures.

They were said to have reached the point at which Arafat will be unable to carry out the ministerial shuffle he is believed to have in mind.

For example, a sharp warning was said to have come from Cairo that if Planning Minister Nabil Shaath is dismissed, Arafat no longer will be welcome in Egypt, a Palestinian political observer said.

Husseini rejected the idea of Abu Dis serving as the PA's capital, contending that this would undermine the very basis of the peace process.

"The whole process is built on UN Security Council Resolution 242, which means Israel's return to the 1967 borders," he said. "Any changes would mean opening the process from the beginning. Anyone in Israel who tells me he or she has rights in 'Judea and Samaria' would simply prompt me to say we lay claim to territory inside Israel."

Asked to comment about the fact that Jordan held part of Jerusalem from 1949 to 1967 and did not designate it as the Palestinian capital, Husseini said the city was held in custodial status pending a solution to the Palestinian problem.

In a parallel development, the PA's American and European benefactors were said to be demanding the dismissal of Mohammed Rashid from his senior economic post for "acting as if he were running a private business," a source said.

"The Europeans warned that if the PA did not clean up its house they won't give it any more money," a source said.

© The Jerusalem Post

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