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Monday, September 08, 2003

Meet Abu Ala, next PA PM

Now, is it my imagination, or does Korei bear a faint (or feint) resemblance to our own Arik Sharon? Is this some twisted humor on Arafat's part, or is he trying to further confuse those who already cannot tell the two sides apart (given moral equivalence, amorphous cycle of violence, etc.)? We report, you decide.

The following PROFILE OF AHMED KOREI (widely known by the nom de guerre, Abu Ala) is published in today's Jerusalem Post:
Ahmed Qurei, likely to be the next Palestinian prime minister, has long been the No. 3 leader in the Fatah movement, after Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas.

He was a key player in the secret talks that led to the 1993 Oslo accords, which led to Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza. He also led the Palestinians in negotiations with Israel in the following years.

The 65-year-old politician is considered one of the few Palestinians who have credibility with Israel but can also count on the important support of Arafat.

However, only months ago, Queri was quoted as saying he was not interested in the prime minister's job.

"I'm not interested in this position, not today, not tomorrow, and not after some years," said in February, when Arafat was casting about for a selection before settling on Abbas.

In 2001, The Washington Post reported Qurei has close ties with people who have held senior positions in right- and left-leaning governments. During the 1995 peace talks with Israel, he suffered a heart attack and traveled to the hospital in an ambulance, with then-foreign minister Shimon Peres accompanying him.

In 2002, Peres and then-Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg telephoned Qurei and apologized for the shooting at his car by IDF soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint.

"You are the last person in the region that we would want to shoot," Peres told him.

Burg blamed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the shooting and called upon him to apologize personally to Qurei.

The IDF expressed regret over the shots fired at the vehicle by soldiers manning a checkpoint as he returned to his home in Abu Dis after meeting with Arafat in Ramallah. Qurei was not wounded in the incident, but some Palestinians said a number of bullets hit his bulletproof car.

Earlier that year, Qurei said the Palestinian Authority had to take measures to convince the Israeli peace camp that it has a peace partner and that the Palestinians want peace.

In a lengthy interview on Palestinian TV, Qurei said Palestinian mistakes were among the reasons that many Israelis no longer supported peace and that the Right had come to power in Israel.

"Unfortunately, even the other [peace] movement has begun to dwindle in Israel apparently due to some of the methods that we use," he said. "We are not talking about legitimate resistance here. But I do say that some of the actions that harm us need to stop. We must know how to organize a proper resistance so that it will bring results and not disappointment."

However, in a September 2000 speech in to the European parliament in Strasbourg, Qurei said Palestinians would support internationalizing all of Jerusalem - including east Jerusalem - should the two sides fail to reach a final settlement in the crucial weeks ahead.

''Unless we can reach an agreement on Jerusalem, I have to declare that both parts of Jerusalem, east and west, should be a unified international Jerusalem ... not just the capital of Israel or Palestine, but a capital of the world,'' Qurei was quoted as saying.

The proposal revived a formula put forward by the UN in 1947 and since repeatedly rejected by Israel, and opposed by the Palestinians, though it still remains part of European foreign policy.

In a 2001 article in the Washington Post, Qurei was described as scoffing at the notion that the Palestinians refused the "deal of the century" when they spurned former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's territorial concessions at Camp David.

Qurei said the Palestinians, who regard their demands for refugee rights and the return of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as firmly rooted in U.N. resolutions, were under no obligation to respond to Israel's ideas with counteroffers.

He told the Washington Post that the territorial concessions contemplated by Barak at Camp David - 91 percent of the West Bank for the Palestinians, with 9 percent going to Israel - would have carved Israeli-controlled cantons out of the West Bank and dashed any hopes for a viable, territorially contiguous Palestinian state.

Shortly after the Camp David talks broke down, Qurei hinted that violence would be an option for the Palestinians.

"When we are convinced a peace agreement is not possible, no doubt our people and the leadership of the Palestinian people will have other alternatives," Qurei told a news conference in Ramallah in August 2000, less than two months before the intifada's outbreak. "We have the right to struggle in all ways to achieve the rights of our people, to put an end to the occupation of our land. I am not calling for violence, but I don't know how the people will react."

Qurei returned with the PLO from Tunis in 1994 after acceptance of the Oslo Accords. Since his return, he has been living in his home village of Abu Dis, southeast of Jerusalem.

Qurei is widely known as "Abu Ala," a "nom de guerre" adopted in the early, underground days of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

He joined Arafat's Fatah movement in 1965, and became the PLO's top money manager by 1983.
ALSO SEE "Arafat wins, Palestinians Lose Again" by Khaled Abu Toameh, in yesterday's JPost:
On Saturday Yasser Arafat added George W. Bush's scalp to his impressive collection. Mahmoud Abbas, the man who less than two months ago was being feted at the White House as the world's choice for Palestinian leader, has been reduced to nothing, simply because he was not Arafat's choice. It took just 100 days for Arafat to trash the dream of the U.S. president that he could impose an alternative leader on the Palestinians. It was clear that Arafat, who has never agreed to share powers with any Palestinian, would do his utmost to undermine Abbas and bring about his downfall. Arafat is now looking for a prime minister who would serve under him, not next to him.