Message to Arafat: 'I Will Not Step Down'

And now the most intriguing two minutes in television, the latest from the wartime grapevine:

Reform Effort Gone Bad?
Two of the security officials Yasser Arafat says he fired as part of a reform effort say they're not stepping down. The BBC reports that Jabril Rajoub, head of preventive security in the West Bank, and Ghazi Jabali, both disputed that they had even been fired. Jabali said his sacking was only a rumor and Rajoub, who has clashed with Arafat in the past, said, "I will not step down and this is my message to Arafat." The BBC said the defiance by the two men was a further sign of Arafat's weakness.

Yes Sir Yasser!
Meanwhile, many ordinary Palestinians are said to be encouraged by the recent pressure for reform and democratic rule, but the media, tightly controlled by Yasser Arafat and his agents, are refusing to report on that sentiment. That, at least is the word from Omar Karsou, a Palestinian businessman who has started a movement called “Democracy in Palestine.” Writing in the London Daily Telegraph, Karsou said it will not be enough simply to hold the snap elections that Arafat has called for early next year unless there is freedom of the press, freedom to hold political rallies and equal time on state-run TV.

Cautious Talk on Bombings
And the New York Times says that a cautious debate has begun among leading Palestinians on the issue of suicide bombings. The Times notes the recent full-page ad signed by 55 Palestinian political figures and intellectuals calling for a reassessment of the use of suicide murders. The ad made the case against suicide murders not on moral grounds but on the ground that they were not "producing any results." The story quotes Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi as saying, "you have to appeal to people's self interest."

Secret Poll
There's a new poll in Iran that is bad news for the ruling Islamic mullahs there, but you won't hear about it in the media there. National Review says the poll, done secretly for the Iranian interior ministry, found that only 94 percent of the people were unsatisfied with the current regime, and 45 percent of those polled said it would be impossible to reform the system — that it must be totally changed. But the magazine says the only changes now being made are further seizures of power by the mullahs, who recently told President Khatami that they, neither he nor the Parliament, would be making all the decisions.