Arafat faces 'very frank' criticism: PLO's leadership, peace policy and finances challenged in Tunis

THE CHAIRMAN of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Yasser Arafat, faced stormy criticism of his leadership, his peace policy and his financial management at a meeting of the PLO executive committee in Tunis. PLO officials described the first session, which lasted until the early hours yesterday, as 'very frank'.

Shortly before the meeting began, Taysir Khaled, a representative of the Damascus-based Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said he would demand Mr Arafat's resignation. But then, he would. The DFLP remains a splinter group which excels at cogent Marxist self- analysis, but whose political weight is dwarfed by Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah movement.

At issue are both Mr Arafat's specific proposals to advance the Middle East peace process, and the fact that he has presented them to the Israelis without properly consulting the Palestinian negotiators to the peace talks, who come from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, or the PLO executive committee. Peace talks are due to resume in Washington on Tuesday.

A proposal gaining greater circulation is the establishment of an interim Palestinian state in only part of the occupied territories, pending a final settlement. This would be in Gaza, and Jericho on the West Bank. Arafat loyalists were quick to play down the row. They emphasised the importance of the Jericho-Gaza proposal.

'This is the most serious solution which can be implemented before the end of 1993. This interim government's most important task must be the preparation of all the infrastructure needed for an independent Palestinian state, therefore, though it will be chaired by President Yasser Arafat, it must be composed essentially by technocrats and nationalist personalities from both inside and outside (the occupied territories),' says Bassam Abu Sharif, a political adviser to Mr Arafat and the man often used to fly a kite for the chairman.

No one in Tunis dismisses the importance of the opponents to the US-initiated direct peace talks in Washington and the signing of a first agreement between Israel and the PLO. 'It's not a storm in a tea cup, it's a real typhoon, for we are on the eve of a historic moment which is going to change the life of millions of people in the region, particularly affecting the Palestinians and the Israelis,' says Mr Sharif. 'This means many people will have to go, for young and new blood to be injected. And of course, many old leaders in the region are not that happy about the prospect and the real possibilities of the coming into life of a Palestinian state.'

At the same time, Mr Sharif plays down the resignation of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish from the executive committee and the suspension from membership of Shafiq al- Hut, the PLO's representative in Lebanon.

Vigorous protests about financial mismanagement by the leadership are also dismissed by independent observers in Tunis as part of the earthquake which will shake the PLO as soon as it signs any agreement with Israel.

'The financial squeeze by our Arab donors, like the Saudis and the Kuwaitis, started months before the Gulf war. But now that we are reaching an agreement with the Israelis, and we have urged our cadres to drastically cut their expenses and limit their privileges, suddenly we hear talk about financial mismanagement and even corruption,' one PLO executive explained bitterly.

At stake is not only the PLO's tentacular organisation but most importantly its military wing, with its generals, colonels, pilots, marines and soldiers scattered in various Arab countries, from Algeria to Yemen.

Leading Israeli newspapers reported that the Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, secretly met a top PLO official to forge a Palestinian self-rule deal. One newspaper identified the Palestinian as Mahmoud Abbas (known as Abu Mazen). Another newspaper said it was Mr Arafat's spokesman, Yasser Abed Rabbo.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
An iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland; researchers have been studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and their long-term ramifications for the rest of the world (Getty)
news
Environment
environment
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Jackman bears his claws and loses the plot in X-Men movie 'The Wolverine'
film
Arts and Entertainment
'Knowledge is power': Angelina Jolie has written about her preventive surgery
film
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing