Arafat wins again has sole control of security

Special to World
Sunday, November 9, 2003

RAMALLAH Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has won a battle to remain as the sole arbiter of Palestinian security.

Palestinian sources said the ruling Fatah Central Council has approved a plan to maintain Arafat as the head of all security services. The plan would also give Arafat sole control over appointments, force levels and veto power over operations.

The plan means that the Interior Ministry would be bereft of much of the authority it obtained under the former government of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas, who was also formally interior minister, retained control over three security agencies, including the police in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

[Over the weekend, Palestinian sources said 12 Palestinians were killed in Israeli military operations in the West Bank city of Jenin as well as the Gaza Strip. Israel's military said five Palestinians were killed, including a Hamas operative.]

The Fatah council approved a proposal that would give Arafat direct control over all of the security agencies. Arafat would head the newly-established National Security Council, which would also include Jibril Rajoub, Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, Gen. Nasser Yusef and Hakam Balawi.

"Compliance with the [PA] Basic Law grants clear authorities to the president [Arafat] over many Palestinian security systems," Hussein Al Sheik, secretary-general of the ruling Fatah movement in the West Bank, said. "Therefore we do not regard this as a violation of the Basic Law, but rather genuine compliance with what has been defined by the Basic Law granting true powers to Brother Abu Amar [Arafat] through his responsibility over many security systems."

The sources said Balawi was expected to be appointed the interior minister in the new PA Cabinet. Yusef had refused to accept the appointment until he was guaranteed that he would be given authority over the security agencies.

"The interior minister will most likely be Hakam Balawi, with responsibility for administrative affairs while security issues will be conducted by the national security council headed by Arafat," Qurei said.

Qurei also wants to appoint Yusef deputy prime minister, the sources said. Arafat has opposed this.

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