The United States has prevented Israel's military from
capturing the headquarters of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
U.S. government sources said the Bush administration sent a harsh
message to Israel to suspend plans to capture Arafat's headquarters in
Ramallah over the weekend. The sources said the had military planned to raid
the so-called Muqata'a on late Friday and capture Arafat.
Both Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser
Condoleezza Rice telephoned Israeli and PA leaders and warned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon to suspend the military plans, Middle East Newsline reported.
The U.S. sources said the Bush administration was alarmed by the Israeli
entry into Ramallah on Thursday. An Israeli military force captured a PA
ministry about 300 meters from Arafat's headquarters and established a
command post for the capture of the Muqata'a.
At that point, the sources said, the administration was informed by the
CIA that Israel planned to imminently capture Arafat's headquarters and
seize the PA chairman. They said Israel planned to exile Arafat to a distant
"The United States does not support either the elimination or the exile
of Mr. Arafat," Powell said. "It is not our position and the Israeli
government knows this. There would be rage in the Arab world and the Muslim
world. And I don't see this moving forward the roadmap."
Powell and Rice sent Israel a message, the sources said, that the United
States regards any move to exile Arafat as harmful to Washington's interests
in the Middle East, including the roadmap for a Palestinian state. At the
time, U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer met Defense Minister Shaul
Mofaz and warned of an international backlash to Arafat's exile.
The sources said the U.S. pressure worked and by Saturday Mofaz ordered
the withdrawal of the Israeli military force from Ramallah. At the same
time, Powell telephoned PA International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath
and pledged that Washington will continue to ensure that Arafat is not