BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  World: Middle East
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Sunday, 19 May, 2002, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Arafat under pressure to reform
Yasser Arafat talks with visiting Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abul-Ragheb in Ramallah
Arafat insists no elections until Israel withdraws
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is under growing pressure to reform his administration, as Palestinian officials discuss steps towards holding elections.

A meeting of the Palestinian Electoral Commission on Sunday said it was ready to propose a timetable to Mr Arafat for elections which he has promised to hold.

Israel has made the restructuring of the authority and its security forces a condition for resuming peace negotiations.

We need to bring about a system of accountability and transparency to which each one of us will be subject, including President Arafat

Saeb Erekat
Palestinian minister
But Mr Arafat has said Israel must pull its troops out of the Palestinian territories before any reform can proceed.

The meeting's agenda also took in technical aspects of organising elections and who would be eligible to participate, the committee's head, Mohammed Shtayyeh, told the BBC.

Mr Shtayyeh made it clear that no election would be possible without co-operation from Israel, whose forces are restricting Palestinians' movement in the West Bank and between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem would also have to be included in any poll, he said.

Sunday also saw the arrival in Ramallah of the Jordanian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister for talks with Mr Arafat to try to establish a concrete timetable for a final peace settlement.

And in another development, Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has put forward a peace proposal which calls for the swift establishment of a Palestinian state.

Support battered

Ahead of the meeting, Local Government Minister Saeb Erekat told Israeli Army radio it was vital to create a democratic separation of powers in the Palestinian Authority.

"We need to bring about a system of accountability and transparency to which each one of us will be subject, including President Arafat," he said.

Yasser Arafat at the Church of the Nativity
Arafat's solution to the Bethlehem siege angered some
Some Palestinians are complaining that Mr Arafat has sold out to Israel and sacrificed important principles by allowing 13 of the militants besieged in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity to be sent into exile.

Such accusations - like the complaints about corruption and cronyism of his administration - are not new.

But analysts say they have added weight at a time when his leadership is under such threat from Israel.

No date

In a speech to the Palestinian legislature last week, Mr Arafat called for the "speedy preparation of elections" - without specifying a date.

Two children, one draped in a Palestinian flag, walk in the camp
Mr Arafat's authority has sagged since the Israeli incursions
There have been suggestions municipal elections could be held later this year with legislative elections taking place in early 2003.

But his demand for an Israeli withdrawal to the positions held before the latest uprising, or intifada, began in September 2000 could put a freeze on any progress.

Israel has indicated that it plans to continue what it calls "pinpoint operations" on suspected militant targets in the Palestinian territories.

So far, Mr Arafat's only declared challenger is Abdel Sattar Qassem, a Palestinian political scientist who says he will run on an anti-corruption platform but who has no local support base.

"I am running for the presidency because I think we need to make some drastic necessary reforms our social, political, economic structures," Mr Qassem told the BBC.

"The Palestinians are actually suffering in two aspects - one aspect from the Israelis and then the other from the Palestinian Authority."

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"Yasser Arafat is under growing pressure to reform his authority"
See also:

19 May 02 | Middle East
Deal on militants 'not done'
18 May 02 | Middle East
Palestinian ministers 'ready to resign'
16 May 02 | Middle East
Palestinian MPs call for elections
15 May 02 | Middle East
Arafat commits to Palestinian reform
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories