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    Suha’s Payout

    DEBKAfile’s Exclusive Report

    November 10, 2004, 1:57 AM (GMT+02:00)

    Tuesday, November 11, Suha Arafat’s French lawyers and former Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), struck a deal. It fixed the Palestinian Authority’s financial obligations to Yasser Arafat’s widow and let him finally die unambiguously and in peace at the end of a morbid tug of war between his wife and Palestinian Authority leaders.

    But this did not happen immediately. The confusion surrounding Arafat’s condition for eleven days – officially alive, unofficially dead – was to be sustained a little longer – mainly to save Mrs Arafat’s face.

    The settlement allowed a funeral to be arranged on “Orphan Friday” of Ramadan, November 12 (as DEBKAfile reported earlier) – unless a new crisis pops up. Our sources have seen some of the principle terms of the Palestinian accord with Suha Arafat.

    1. This clause has already taken place. Before the Palestinian delegation which visited the hospital left Paris, foreign minister Nabil Shaath again assured the media that Arafat is still alive and “his brain, heart and lungs are still functioning.” This was necessary to prove Suha Arafat had not lied when she appeared that morning live on Arabic TV Al Jazeera to accuse those same officials of conspiring to bury her husband alive. The deal provided for the announcement of Arafat’s death to be held back for late Tuesday night or Wednesday, November 10.

    2. The widow will attend the funeral. Abu Mazen insisted on her following the Palestinian leader’s bier for the sake of appearances.

    3. Last July, Arafat sent his wife $11 million to cover her living expenses and those of their daughter for six months - $1.8 million per month. The new accord guarantees her the same allowance from the Palestinian Authority as a regular annual remittance, i.e. $22 million per annum, for the rest of her life. Abu Mazen and prime minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) signed on the dotted line, although they have no notion how the penniless Palestinian Authority faced with a people in dire poverty can possibly stump up this kind of money.

    DEBKAfile’s Paris sources offer an exclusive peek at Suha Arafat’s lifestyle in the French capital. She owns a smart villa on one of the most elegantly affluent streets in the world, Rue Fauborg St. Honore, while also maintaining a lavish private suite at the five-star Hotel Le Bristol, which after a multimillion dollar refurbishment claims to outclass the Paris Ritz, the Four Seasons and even George V. The upkeep of the Bristol suite she maintains for “business” was included in her widow’s “pension.”

    After the Palestinian officials settled with Arafat’s wife, Shaat went before the media to admit that Arafat had been in a deep coma since last Wednesday, November 3, meaning that all the Palestinian communiqués since then, describing him laughing with doctors, reading the Koran etc., were arrant falsehoods. He ruled out poisoning and cancer as the causes of Arafat’s illness and laid the blame for his “digestive disorders” on - who else? Israel, whose army had besieged Arafat’s quarters and forced the 75-year old leader to subsist on too little oxygen and in poor sanitary conditions.

    Some facts might shed some light on this point.

    For three and a half years, since Israeli troops withdrew from Arafat’s headquarters and private apartment at the end of the 2002 Defensive Shield operation, Palestinians have been building, remodeling and refurbishing the ”battered” seat of Palestinian government tirelessly and undisturbed. No one stopped Arafat from moving into any part of his spanking new compound at any time. He could have ordered bathrooms made of the finest Italian marble whenever he wanted. He was not short of funds; witness the generous allowance he made his absent wife. No one would have prevented him going out for a stroll in Ramallah, taking the air in its parks or dining in its restaurants. Arafat chose to confine himself to two wretched rooms to show the world how badly Israel was treating him and win the world’s sympathy.

    For the same reason, he ordered the Palestinians to leave the shell pocks in the walls of his quarters unrepaired, just as the late Syrian President Hafez Assad left the Golan town of Kuneitra in ruins as a sort of theme park for displaying Israel’s alleged misdeeds to tourists.

    Arafat did emerge once for a “state” visit to the West Bank town of Jenin. His welcome there was far short of expectations and he never tried any such visits again. With a multi-billion fortune at his disposal, Arafat invariably appeared in public in grubby, crumpled khakis – mainly because the aides who served him and his finely tailored associates were not overly concerned with his welfare.

    The funeral plans as they stand at this moment are as follows:

    On Friday, November 12, Arafat will be buried at the Ramallah headquarters he lived in. So far, the Palestinians have not applied to Egypt or Jordan to permit a stopover for the coffin in Cairo or Amman, whence it will be flow by helicopter to Ramallah. One of these requests will probably be received Wednesday or Thursday. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak made it clear this week that no formal ceremonies would be allowed in his capital; the coffin would be placed simply at Arab League Headquarters in Cairo.

    Both Abu Mazen and Abu Ala, anxious to avoid calling on Israel for assistance in dealing with the Arab VIPs expected for the funeral, hope they can be accommodated in Amman before being flown by helicopter to Ramallah and flown back immediately after the ceremonies are over, seeing Israel only from the air.

    By Saturday, November 13, the funeral will be behind them and Palestinian Muslims can enjoy the three-day Eid el Fitr festival that comes at the end of Ramadan.

    Their leaders, Abbas and Qureia, will use the time to cement their hold on Palestinian government. They do not intend making good on their promise in Paris to let the Palestinian legislature Speaker Fathi Rouh act as president until after an election 60 days hence. What they do plan is an emergency session of the legislature to pass a measure postponing elections until further notice in view of the crisis caused by Arafat’s death. The lawmakers will be asked to choose a new president to succeed him. Together, the pair commands a majority in the house.

    That is the plan. But, as has become manifest in the last 11 days, the Palestinians are gifted with a limitless capacity for shooting off at a tangent without reason or notice.

 
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