Loay Abu Haykel  /  Reuters
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, shown at a meeting at his headquarters in Ramallah on July 14, has never said where he wants to be buried.
updated 7/14/2004 10:38:22 AM ET 2004-07-14T14:38:22

When Yasser Arafat dies, Israel must make sure he is not buried in Jerusalem and prepare for swift, harsh action if militant groups try to take control in the Palestinian territories, according to a new contingency plan.

The document, obtained by the Associated Press, lays out Israel’s best predictions about the consequences that may follow the death of Arafat, 75, who wields enormous power and has said little about who might succeed him — or what to do with his body.

The contingency plan paints a dire picture: Arafat’s Palestinian Authority will collapse and Islamic groups, led by Hamas, could rise up out of the refugee camps where they have strong support and try to take control of the Palestinian government. Israel must be prepared to launch a massive military operation in the Gaza Strip, according to the document.

Document part of regular planning process
The document, recently presented to the Foreign Ministry, is part of regular planning for Arafat’s death. There have been signs that his health is deteriorating, including shaking hands and lips, which led to speculation he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. His doctors won’t confirm the rumors.

Last summer, Arafat suffered a severe stomach flu, and his inner circle held talks about possible burial places. After Arafat recovered, a medical clinic in his West Bank headquarters was upgraded.

Arafat also keeps a strict diet of boiled vegetables, completely avoiding oil and fried foods. He also puts honey in his tea instead of sugar.

Palestinian officials say their leader remains firmly in control. “He is very healthy,” Emad Shakour, an adviser to Arafat, told Israel’s Army Radio.

The contingency plan is one of about three that Israel has prepared. Each relevant government body, including the Defense Ministry, is believed to have a plan for how to deal with Arafat’s death.

In March, the Israeli army carried out a training exercise to run through measure it would take if Arafat dies. The simulations included handling the funeral procession, countering possible riots and crushing coup attempts by Islamic militants.

No indication from Arafat on burial choice
Officials close to Arafat say he has never indicated where he wants to be buried, but the assumption is he would want to be buried on the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, a supreme honor for Muslims.

The five-page Israeli document looks at three possible causes of death: an Israeli military operation, a prolonged illness or a short, natural death.

The document predicts a “heroic and sacrificial story” about his demise and says Israel will be blamed. Palestinians around the world will express collective grief, the document says.

The main crisis will be over a demand to bury Arafat in Jerusalem — something Israel will strongly oppose, the document says. The crisis could include holding Arafat’s body in his West Bank headquarters for several days, leading to international pressure on Israel.

Another scenario foresees thousands of Palestinians trying to bring the body from the West Bank town of Ramallah to Jerusalem.

The document recommends that Israel allow Arafat to be treated abroad if his health deteriorates, in the hopes he will die outside the country, removing all blame from Israel and making it easier to stop his burial in Jerusalem.

As a compromise, Israel would suggest Arafat be buried in Abu Dis, a Palestinian suburb of Jerusalem that overlooks the Old City.

Israel should prepare for Arafat’s death by putting “pressure” on militant groups and by opening dialogue with Palestinians who would form a government “acceptable” to Israel, the document says.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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