poisoned Yasser Arafat
because it wants Palestinian leaders who obey it and agree with its policies, Farouk
Kaddoumi, a veteran PLO leader, told Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip on Monday.
Kaddoumi's allegations were included in a message he sent to members of the Fatah revolutionary council
who met in Gaza City
to discuss internal reforms and preparations for next July's parliamentary elections.
The council decided on Monday night to hold internal elections to choose Fatah candidates for the election. Fatah leaders hailed the decision as "a strategic action to reinforce the democratic choice."
"Everyone was surprised by the poisoning of the former chairman of the Palestinian Authority
," Kaddoumi said in his message. "Israel was behind this plot. I accuse [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and his racist government."
He launched a scathing attack on the PA for failing to launch a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Arafat's death and hinted that top Palestinian officials were involved in the alleged conspiracy.
"Those inside the occupied territories should have carried out a serious investigation against those surrounding Arafat to establish facts that are still unknown to us," he added.
"But we failed to do so. This is not just a matter of a leader who passed away. This is a political case and we will insist on discovering the truth no matter how long it takes. We will continue to pursue this case until we discover the hands that put the poison in the body of the martyr [Arafat] and those who were accomplices to this crime."
Kaddoumi, who is one of the few PLO leaders who refused to leave Tunis after the signing of the Oslo Accords, surprised the Fatah leaders by questioning Mahmoud Abbas's
right to succeed Arafat.
"We chose Abu Mazen (Abbas) as chairman of the PLO only because we wanted the negotiations [with Israel] to be formal and internationally recognized," he said. "We didn"t choose him to become the president of Palestine
because only the Palestine National Council
(the PLO's parliament-in-exile) can elect a president."
Kaddoumi lashed out at Palestinian officials who have been jockeying for power in the post-Arafat era, saying their behavior resulted in widespread resentment in the ruling Fatah faction and hindered the establishment of a new cabinet.
"This shows that there is a flaw in Fatah which needs to be corrected immediately," he said. "But we won"t be able to tackle this problem through hasty decisions and mass resignations."
Kaddoumi told the stunned Fatah leaders that the Palestinians were fed up with totalitarianism and corruption and accused the top officials and the commanders of the PA security forces of intimidating the people.
Some of the heads of the security forces have forgotten what their official duties are and are running wild without supervision, taking bribes and extorting people," he charged.
Kaddoumi, who replaced Arafat as chairman of the Fatah central committee, called an urgent meeting of the committee in Jordan
next week to discuss the situation in the faction ahead of the legislative election and negotiations with Israel over the pullout from Palestinian cities and the release of security prisoners.
Originally published March 30, 2005