Arafat wants Bush, Sharon out

By Aaron Klein

Yasser Arafat

Yasser Arafat is biding his time until November, when he hopes President Bush will be voted out of office and Ariel Sharon’s coalition government will fall, Israel’s intelligence chief said.

“Arafat is waiting for November in the hope George Bush will lose the election to John Kerry,” military intelligence chief Major General Aharon Ze’evi told Army Radio Sunday. “He also hopes that the Israeli government will fall, so he can take center stage diplomatically.”

Since 2002, Washington has fully backed Jerusalem’s decision to isolate the Palestinian Authority president, who Sharon says is directly involved in planning terrorism, and is an obstacle to peacemaking.

In his first public comments since political turmoil in Gaza ahead of Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal in 2005 turned into a political confrontation with Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei last week, Arafat denied his government was in a crisis, and said he had approved reforms of his security forces.

But Ze’evi, speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting, said that open Palestinian opposition to Arafat’s policies was mounting in the Gaza Strip, and that the area is headed into a civil war.

Ze’evi said more Palestinians are realizing they are losing more in this conflict than Israel. He said Israel’s ability to effectively fight terrorism, coupled with the fact that neither Israeli society nor its economy has crumbled under the weight of the violence, is causing Palestinian frustration and turmoil.

When he heard that Arafat wants him toppled, Sharon responded, “Arafat wants to see me driven out, as well? I thought that only in Israel people were wishing for my downfall.”

Kerry has said he would not seek to rebuild ties with Arafat if elected president in November.

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U.N. thrashes Arafat for coming ‘collapse’