In a stunning rebuke of Yasser Arafat, the United Nations says the Palestinian Authority is on the verge of collapse, as it warns of a “steadily emerging chaos” in the region.
The assessment comes from Terje Roed-Larsen, the U.N.’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, who briefed the Security Council.
“The paralysis of the Palestinian Authority has become abundantly clear, and the deterioration of law and order in Palestinian areas is steadily worsening,” Roed-Larsen said. “Clashes and showdowns between branches of Palestinian security forces are now common in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian Authority legal authority is receding fast in the face of the mounting power of arms, money and intimidation.”
“This collapse of authority cannot be attributed only to the Israeli incursions and operations inside Palestinian towns. The Palestinian Authority is in deep distress and is in real danger of collapse,” he continued.
The envoy stated the only explanation was the “lack of political will” to move toward reform.
“The Palestinian Authority, despite consistent promises by its leadership, has made no progress on its core obligation to take immediate action on the ground to end violence and combat terror, and to reform and reorganize the Palestinian Authority,” he said.
According to Agence France-Presse, he said Arafat had given “only nominal and partial support” to Egyptian efforts to reform Palestinian security services.
Roed-Larsen, who worked closely with Arafat for a decade, said the fact Yasser remained confined to his headquarters in Ramallah was no excuse for passivity and inaction.
He concluded by expressing two options: “Either we act, all the time, patiently and tirelessly, trying to find a way out of this conflict, or we sit and watch as more people bleed. The choice is for each of us to make.”
Roed-Larsen’s remarks drew both Israeli praise and Palestinian anger.
“We have serious problems with this statement,” said Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian representative at the U.N. “We’re not even sure that it is reflective of the United Nations position.”
“The Palestinian Authority has serious problems, but I would say that this is the direct result of Israeli policies and Israeli actions,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “We have occupation. We have an occupying power that has been engaged on a daily basis in illegal activities, war crimes.”
“It’s strange for him to play the role of the cheerleader, basically, of Mr. Sharon,” al-Kidwa added, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Arye Mekel, Israel’s deputy ambassador, called Roed-Larsen’s statement “very reasonable.”
“This basically is what we’ve been saying all along. The Palestinian Authority instead of trying to look after its people and work for peace … has embarked on the road of terror, and this is why they have a failed economy, and this is the cause of their problems,” Mekel said.
The briefing comes just days after the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled Israel’s security fence around the West Bank was illegal.
The issue of the barrier is expected to come up again at the U.N. on Friday.
The U.S. has said it opposes any resolution calling on Israel to tear down the barrier, which has been effective in dramatically reducing the numbers of Jewish civilians killed by terrorists in the region.