by DEBKAfile
12 December 2001

"Zinni Is A Fast Learner -- Less than a month into his Israel-Palestinian truce brokerís mission, retired Marines General Anthony Zinni has acquired a good grasp of the cast of characters he is up against ... DEBKAfileís military and Palestinian sources report that the third session of the trilateral security coordination that the US envoy chaired Tuesday evening ended in the same stalemate as the previous two. Zinni as usual handed Arafat a list of demands and Arafat with the same clockwork regularity turned them down.  His nay-saying covered the cessation of terrorist attacks (not in his power); orders to the heads of his security services to draw up a timetable for the detention and interrogation of known terrorists; a halt in the nightly mortar fire on Israeli settlements and, finally, a block on the same Hamas West Bank financial organs - the Holy Land Foundation and the Beit El-Mal Holdings Company - whose American assets President Bush ordered frozen last week.

Arafatís nyets came thick and fast again in response to demands from similar demands from the European Unionís foreign policy executive Javier Solana when he called on the Palestinian leader in Ramallah Tuesday. The visit followed the EUís demand that Arafat end the armed Palestinian intifada and dismantle the Hamas and Jihad Islami groups.

The same European decision also called on Israel to halt Jewish settlement. However, the more Arafat says no, the stronger Sharonís international standing. The prime ministerís breakfast invitation to Solana Tuesday therefore looked very much like a pat on the back, a reward for the EUís reversal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
At the same time, Zinni, Solana and Sharon are far from complacent, aware that Arafat is in a rage, yet biding his time to see how Americaís war on terror turns out before launching his next outburst of violence.

US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, at his Pentagon press briefing Tuesday, threw cold water on enthusiastic international media accounts of US successes against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. He stressed that the Taliban were still fighting in many places and that the Tora Bora caves had not yet been overrun. The enemy, he said, was like a wounded animal, still very dangerous.

Rumsfeldís analogy is particularly apt for the Palestinian Authority, its security organs and its leader, Yasser Arafat. Wounded and at bay, they are still capable of inflicting much harm."