by DEBKAfile
4 January 2002

"The day US Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni returned to the region, DEBKAfileís Palestinian sources quoted Yasser Arafat as confiding to his intimates that he was drafting his most important speech in two decades: a declaration of the Palestinian War of Liberation.

He promised to wait until after retired general Zinni had left, adding: 'Thereís a limit to our patience!' From Arafatís point of view, US peace and ceasefire initiatives have all been wasted enterprises - whether Camp David, Taba, Paris, Cairo, Sharm el-Sheikh, or the Tenet ceasefire proposal and the Mitchell blueprint Ė and he would make envoy Zinni admit failure.

Arafat believes his declaration will fire up the Palestinian and Arab masses and draw them into a new cycle of hostilities against Israel. What Arafat is smarting under most, aside from the loss of his own massesí enthusiasm for the struggle, is the desertion of Arab leaders. None are rushing to rescue him from his state of confinement in Ramallah and international isolation. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah and Gulf and Saudi leaders have not even made courtesy phone calls in sympathy with his plight.

The Israelis do not bother to conceal that their tanks are merely churning mud as a polite gesture for Zinni rather than seriously relaxing their closures of Palestinian cities. The 10 yards they pulled back Thursday are easily covered when he leaves.  Israeli tanks remain within sight of Arafatís headquarters in Ramallah. Israel promises to keep them there until the Palestinians hand over the murderers of cabinet minister Zeevi. Raids into Palestinian territory to round up suspected terrorists also continues unabated.

But the most painful slap in the face was delivered by Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa, who as Egyptian foreign minister was the most fervent champion of Arafatís Intifada. In comments still echoing round the Arab world, Moussa declared last week that it was time for Arafat and the Palestinians to realize they had become incidental to current history and 'no longer of interest in the Arab world', which faces more acute problems. He reflected an Arab consensus when he urged the Palestinians to give up their battle for a final-status peace treaty with Israel and settle for the most they could get: a limited interim accord ...

Closer to home, Jordanís King Abdullah fired his military intelligence chief, General Zahar al-Fawaz, in a surprise move that astounded its object. His replacement is General Tahseen Shrdum, a Circassian of Chechen descent, who served on the Jordanian teams that drew up Jordanís peace treaty with Israel. This changeover is a blatant strengthening of the pro-Israeli element in Jordanian military intelligence Ė and reflects the Jordanian monarchís determination to keep up with the fast-moving Middle East changes reflected in DEBKAfilereporting in recent weeks.

The new appointments in Washington, Amr Moussaís change of face, King Abdullahís posture - all fit into the new picture presaged by Sharon when he declared Yasser Arafat irrelevant. They have all closed ranks, placing the Palestinian leader under both physical and diplomatic siege. He can either toe the American line by genuinely rooting out terror and turning his back on violence or see his cause sinking ever deeper into irrelevance.

But Arafat being Arafat, he is far more likely to make one more desperate throw and force Palestinian and Israeli to endure the ultimate act of terror of what he calls the Palestinian War of Liberation.