Inside File: Oslo baffled by Arafat's flight of fancy

PERCEPTIONS of Yasser Arafat have differed more wildly than usual in recent weeks. They serve as a reminder of his ability to baffle the world. For a start, sources reveal, Mr Arafat has managed to upset none other than the midwives of his peace plan with Israel. He has told the Norwegian government that it has 'a moral obligation' to pay for the construction of an airport in Jericho, where he may or may not take up residence as a result of a successful settlement. Asked by baffled Norwegian officials why they should agree to this, Mr Arafat replied: 'How else will I get there?'

Norway, having brokered the secret talks that led to the Israeli-PLO agreement on Palestinian self-rule, has, of course, an interest second to none in wishing the Palestinians to prosper.

But for one thing, it is by no means certain that Mr Arafat will base himself permanently in Jericho; for another, a town of 15,000 people and comprising three dusty streets and a few banana plantations could probably make do with a helipad.

'It's a bit rich that while the Palestinians are supposed to inspire trust in their international donors, Arafat flies around on a celebration binge making demands like this, refusing to delegate on the factual issues and staying with huge entourages in places like the Dorchester Hotel,' said a European diplomat. 'Especially as there may not be much to celebrate at the moment.'

Another government with misgivings about investing in Mr Arafat is that of Spain; Madrid, host to the 1991 Middle East peace conference, had agreed to pay for the restoration of the Hisham Palace Hotel, due to serve as Mr Arafat's Jericho residence. A Spanish diplomat visited the hotel with a team of engineers in September. But the dilapidated building remains untouched today, not a pot of paint in sight.

The manager, Rajai Abdo, who had hoped Mr Arafat would make his hotel world famous, is despondent. The restoration cost was to have been dollars 1.6m ( pounds 1.07m). But the problem, Mr Abdo tells me, seems to be that the PLO has no money to pay for the lease, which he describes as 'peanuts' at dollars 70,000 a year.

That the PLO does not have dollars 70,000 to cough up for its own lease seems an odd claim. The Dutch government recently went against the consensus of the European Union to pledge the PLO dollars 20m for its own port in Gaza, and a further dollars 17m in pocket money.

It seems Mr Arafat made a singularly good impression during his recent visit to the Netherlands, traditionally perceived as one of the most pro-Israeli countries in Europe. 'He spoke with great optimism despite the current difficulties in the peace process and left a very positive impression,' said one diplomat. The chairman had been well briefed: 'His image was especially prepared for the Netherlands as a country seen to be especially friendly to Israel.'

It was likewise when Mr Arafat met Douglas Hurd in London this week. 'He was chirpy, perky, held a very sensible discussion, was quite optimistic and spoke in English throughout with no hesitation,' said a British official. When shown the guest-list for the official lunch, which included the Israeli ambassador and other Jewish dignitaries, he said: 'Very good. These are after all the people we are supposed to be making peace with.' Mr Arafat had clearly been well briefed for his first London visit too.

The Israelis had fretted a bit about the head-of-state-like treatment the British were according the PLO chairman. They had inquired of the Foreign Office beforehand whether he would be allowed to fly the Palestinian flag on the bonnet of his car. They were told that an organisation can fly any flag they like, which Mr Arafat duly did.

The Israelis are pleased, on the other hand, that the name of the PLO office in London has been changed from the mission of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation to simply the Palestinian Delegation. One Israeli official said. 'It means the peace is there. There is nothing left to liberate.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are working with this Co-educatio...

Tradewind Recruitment: Textiles

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We require a teacher of Textiles for this c...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We require a teacher of English for this co...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Service General Administrator

£16000 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea