Sunday, October 31, 2004

Money makes Arafat's world go round

Like Harry, I'm officially sick of Arafat stories, and so unless he kicks the bucket, I promise hope not to post any more -- after this one.
The London Times has a rather realistic report on Arafat's attempts, even as he thought he was dying, to hold onto his $1b. 'treasure chest.' In the process, the report reveals some juicy details about the last few days in his compound.
For example, if you can believe it, the Times claims that some of Arafat's aides urged him to get treated in Israel.
“'We told him in Tel Aviv he’d get better treatment than anywhere else,' said Ahmad Tibi, a confidant. 'But he said he’d rather die than be hospitalised in Israel.'"
Funny, that was almost what happened.
Arafat's personal doctor, who is a Jordanian, tried to get him treated in Jordan -- but the Hashemites refused, apparently because the "royal court feared reprisals from the local Palestinian population if he died while under its protection."
Then they asked Egypt -- which, surprise surprise, also refused. And that's how, in case you were wondering, he ended up with the French. As the Times says, so much for Arab solidarity.
Regarding the money, the Times says that just before he got onto the helicopter,
Ahmed Qureia, the prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, his predecessor, told the 75-year-old Arafat that they needed funds to keep the Palestinian territories running in his absence. Instead of producing his chequebook, however, Arafat, in light blue pyjamas and a woollen cap, replied: “I’m still alive, thank God, so don’t worry.”
Unfortunately, no one else actually knows where the money is. Says one of his aides: "In case of the sudden death of the president there is a strong possibility we’ll be unable to locate the accounts.... We need to make an arrangement with him. So far we’ve achieved nothing.”
Neither has Suha. Here's what 'a source close to the leader' has to say about the Palestinian First Lady:
“Somebody must have told her he was dying,” sniffed [the source]. “She never bothered to come when he was sick before... She wanted to know the details of the bank accounts; she wants to make sure that the financial future of Zahwa, their daughter, is safe,” said the source, adding that Arafat had refused to divulge any details of the accounts.
With Ha'aretz reporting that he's lost some of his mental capacities, I just hope he remembers them.

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