How close was Israel to Arafat?

Controversy swirls amidst allegations that his ex-bodyguard was Shin-Bet agent.

arafat 298  (photo credit: )
arafat 298
(photo credit: )
Was Yasser Arafat's former bodyguard a spy for Israel, or was he the victim of a plot concocted by senior officials in Ramallah? Muhammad al-Daya served for more than a decade as Arafat's most trusted bodyguard and used to accompany him almost every place he went. Daya's sudden disappearance from the Mukata compound more than three years ago triggered a wave of rumors as to the reason behind Arafat's decision to fire him. Some Palestinians claimed then that Daya had been arrested by the Palestinian Authority security forces on suspicion that he was working for the Shin Bet (Israel security Agency). The suspicions followed the interception by the IDF of the Karin A weapons ship that Arafat was trying to smuggle into the Gaza Strip in 2001. Others claimed that Daya was fired because of his “suspicious” relations with Israelis and frequent visits to Tel Aviv. They added that Daya had been transferred from Ramallah to the Gaza Strip, where he was being interrogated by the Military Intelligence Force headed by Arafat's cousin, Gen. Musa Arafat, who was assassinated two months ago. Daya, who has vehemently denied all the charges, continues to maintain that he was the victim of a “malicious conspiracy” orchestrated by some of Arafat's top aides. “Some people in Arafat's office didn't like the fact that I was the closest person to him,” he said. “They incited the president [Arafat] against me until he finally succumbed to their pressure.” In November 2003 Daya returned to Ramallah, but was not allowed to enter the Mukata. Shortly after his arrival, he was kidnapped and severely beaten by masked men. After Arafat's death, the PA security forces arrested Sa'adeh al-Ajouri, a resident of Ramallah, who reportedly confessed to taking part in the attack on Daya. Ajouri told interrogators that two of Arafat's former aides paid him money to beat Daya. One of the aides has been identified as Fayez Hammad, the former director of Arafat's bureau. The second aide, whose identity was not revealed, is reported to have fled to Jordan. On Tuesday, both Ajouri and Hammad publicly apologized to Daya and admitted that they were part of a plot designed to keep him away from Arafat. “I wish to express deep regret for the lies about Daya and I apologize to him and his family,” Hammad said. “The plot was the work of another official who wanted to destroy his reputation and remove him from his work.” Following his dismissal, Daya wrote a letter to the Houston-based Arab Times newspaper in which he strongly denied the allegations that he was an Israeli spy. “I am Muhammad al-Daya, the son of Yasser Arafat and his bodyguard until my death, until the last minute of my life. Everybody knows who I am,” he said. “I'm alive, I live in Gaza now and I am in my home in Gaza. I am free and healthy; you can send your correspondent to me to interview me in my home or in the street or anywhere else.