Slow but building reaction to the publication of the Swiss report finding polonium in forensic testing of Arafat's remains

Reaction built slowly on Thursday to the previous day’s revelations about a Swiss lab’s new findings of Polonium in Arafat’s remains after forensic testing that followed last year’s exhumation.

A press conference has been announced for Friday morning at 10:00 am in the Ramallah Muqata’a.  Tawfik Tirawi, Chairman of the committee appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to look into reports that Polonium poisoning caused the death of the late Palestinian leader, will preside.

Moin Rabbani wrote a post for MERIP, published here in which he said that “these latest revelations could not have come at a worse time for Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud ‘Abbas, currently engaged once again in bilateral negotiations with Israel under American supervision. The prospects for a new Israeli-Palestinian agreement in 2014 are real and growing, and greater today than at any time since Arafat refused to capitulate to Israel and the United States during the 2000 Camp David summit and thereby set the stage for the ensuing Palestinian uprising. More to the point, such an agreement would entail ‘Abbas signing off on many of the conditions Arafat refused to accept, in no small part because Arafat recognized that those arrangements fell considerably short of the absolute minimum his people were prepared to ingest”.

Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh reported from Ramallah that “The findings of the report are not very shocking or surprising for the Palestinian people, but now they are definitely anxious and eager to find what their leadership is going to do”.

Al Jazeera noted here that “there has not been an official reaction from the Palestinian Authority so far”.

The DFLP’s Qais Abdul Qarim [Abu Layla], a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told Al-Jazeera that he put the blame for poisoning Arafat on Israel [“Only the Israels had the means and the motive to commit this crime”], and said the State of Palestine should now join the International Court of Justice to take the necessary measures to bring these people to justice. “This is a a scandal and a crime”, he said. And he predicted this would have a negative impact on the current already-troubled negotiations. “This is a sensitive issue and it has a very important impact on Palestinian public opinion”, he said, “and the majority of Palestinians would find it improper at least that talks with the Israelis would continue after the revealing of their responsibility for this crime against one of the monumental and legendary heroes of the Palestinian liberation struggle”.

Despite this talk, Rabbani noted, meanwhile, that “it is widely assumed that while of Israeli provenance the fatal toxin must have been administered by Palestinian hands. This possibility raises uncomfortable questions about the studied reluctance with which the Palestinian leadership has handled the Arafat death file. New evidence that he was killed therefore raises additional questions about why the Palestinian accomplice has yet to be caught or identified, and more broadly about why the leadership has not energetically pursued criminal proceedings against Israel”.

According to Rabbani, “renewed discussion of Arafat’s final days almost inevitably drags in its wake talk of the relationship between him and ‘Abbas during that period. To put it bluntly, they detested each other. Arafat denounced ‘Abbas as a ‘Palestinian Karzai’ who allowed himself to be used by Sharon and George W. Bush to weaken the Palestinian leader”.

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