Chirac Throws Support behind Suha Arafat
November 8, 2004
It looked as though after ten days, the brawl within the Palestinian leadership over Yasser Arafat’s body and ill-gotten fortune might be running out of mind-boggling maneuvers, when French president Jacques Chirac stepped in.
Whereas until now, he had insisted on the whole mess being removed from France tout de suite, Monday, November 8, he saw a way of using the arrival of present and former Palestinian prime ministers, Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) and Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), to pick up points for France and score a few against the US interest. After a consultation with his Middle East advisers, he decided to back Suha Arafat all the way and at the same time reach out to the radical, rejectionist wing of the Palestinian camp - PLO politburo chief Farouk Kaddumi, Arafat’s close confidant Hanni al Hassan, Force 17 commander and senior terrorist chief Col. Feisal Abu Srakh, as well as Mohammed Jihad, an important Jordanian Palestinian general.
Abu Ala and Abu Mazen had been deeply shamed by the hysterical pre-dawn outburst of Arafat’s wife Suha against them both over al Jazeera Arabic TV. She accused them of an “intrigue to bury Abu Amar (Arafat) alive,” and declared her husband was well and would return to lead his people. “I appeal to you to be aware of the scale of the conspiracy,” she shouted.
Ordinary Palestinians were furious. One asked ironically what sort of uprising had she conducted in Paris, where she has lived alone most of her married life. She was accused of manipulatively withholding information about Arafat’s medical condition, preventing the Percy military hospital from giving out real information on his mysterious ailment and providing fertile ground for wild speculation.
Swallowing their chagrin, Abu Ala and Abu Mazen flew to the French capital to sort out the imbroglio. It was clear to them all that Arafat could not be maintained on life support systems beyond a couple of days, that his body must be removed and a funeral arranged to salvage the last shreds of the Palestinian leader’s dignity. To accomplish this, Suha would have to be paid off.
DEBKA file ’s sources learned she had been prepared to demand their signatures on documents drafted by her French lawyers guaranteeing her multimillion dollar inheritance and pension - as the price for switching off life support systems.
But the two Palestinian officials were further humiliated when they arrived at the Percy hospital gates. French medical spokesman Christian Estripeau, who was back on duty after being withdrawn, intoned the only meaningless bulletin permitted him: “His condition is stable… Mr. Arafat’s condition forces us to limit visits.”
Mrs Arafat still held the key to their access to Arafat - except on her terms. With the French president behind her, those terms can only become stiffer. And by grinding Abu Ala and Abu Mazen down, she is doing her part in enhancing the standing of their radical rivals.