JERUSALEM – With Yasser Arafat under Israeli siege in his West Bank office Sunday, the Palestinian news agency harshly criticized the U.S. Mideast envoy and warned that Arab leaders could be overthrown if they fail to back the Palestinians.
After a series of bloody Palestinian attacks, Israel sent its army into Ramallah on Friday, and tanks crashed into Arafat's headquarters compound, trapping him in part of his office building in a policy described by the Israelis as "isolation."
The Palestinian news agency, Wafa, said Arafat "shocked the invader" by refusing to surrender, and complained that the United States and Arab leaders were harming the Palestinian cause.
A statement, signed by the Wafa political editor but giving no name, charged that U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni "has betrayed his mission and became a rubber stamp to Israeli dictations." Zinni has been trying to negotiate a truce to end 18 months of Palestinian-Israeli violence.
His mission hit a snag after he offered bridging proposals to overcome differences over how to implement a truce plan negotiated last June by CIA director George Tenet. The Israelis said they reluctantly accepted Zinni's proposals, but the Palestinians requested some changes.
The United States "is godfathering Israel," the statement said, hoping that "Arafat would collapse and agree to change the Tenet understandings to suit the Israeli desires."
The official Palestinian news agency also charged that Arab leaders were preventing their people from demonstrating against the United States and Israel. "When nations get fed up by their leaders, they will find the way to remove them," Wafa wrote.
The statement noted that at a summit in Beirut three days ago, Arab leaders offered to make peace with Israel, and said that they must now react to the "hasty Israeli response" to their offer.