CAIRO Ñ The regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak believes Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat will torpedo any
plan to reduce his authority over Palestinian security forces unless he is granted freedom to travel.
Egyptian officials who have met Arafat said pressure by Cairo has not
yielded any significant change in the position of the PA chairman. The
officials said Mubarak expects Arafat to pledge support for the Egyptian
security plan, only to disrupt its implementation at a later stage.
"Arafat's major goal is to use the Egyptian plan to end his isolation,"
an Egyptian official said. "There's no way we can guarantee this until there
are results on the ground."
On Thursday, PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei met Mubarak as well as
Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman. Officials said both
Egyptians would discuss Cairo's security plan and timetable for its
implementation, Middle East Newsline reported.
Officials said Arafat wants Egypt to press Israel to renew his freedom
of movement, both within the PA areas as well as the right to travel abroad.
Since 2001, Israel's military has confined Arafat to Ramallah, where he has
been stuck most of the time in his headquarters in that West Bank city.
So far, Arafat has sent a letter to Mubarak that expressed agreement to
the Egyptian security plan. The plan called for the deployment of up to 150
trainers in the Gaza Strip to help reorganize and enhance PA security
forces. Drafted by Suleiman, the plan also called for the merger of the 13
PA agencies into three security organizations Ñ police, internal security
and foreign intelligence. The new agencies would be headed by a new PA
interior minister who would be under Qurei's, rather than Arafat's,
Officials said Suleiman, scheduled to travel to Ramallah at the end of
next week, has sought to win Arafat's agreement to appoint an interior
minister responsible for the security services. Officials expect Arafat to
appoint either PA secretary-general Tayeb Abdul Rahim or former Nablus Mayor
Ghassan Shakaa to the ministerial post.
"Arafat will only appoint somebody who is completely beholden to him and
that means that Arafat will continue to control PA security," the official
said. "We have major doubts over whether he will allow any meaningful
Officials said Cairo's concern was that Egyptian security personnel in
the Gaza Strip would be attacked by Palestinian insurgency groups. They said
Arafat has already organized Palestinian unrest against the Egyptian
diplomatic presence in the Gaza Strip and encouraged insurgency groups to
protest the security plan.
Suleiman also plans to meet representatives of Hamas over the next few
weeks to obtain the insurgency group's agreement to the Egyptian security
deployment in the Gaza Strip. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been critical of
Egypt's cooperation with the Israeli plan to unilaterally withdraw from the
Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank.
Mubarak, officials said, has sought guarantees from Israel and the
United States that the Egyptian security presence in the Gaza Strip would
not be harmed after an Israeli withdrawal from the area. Israel plans to
withdraw from the Gaza Strip by the end of 2005.