'Arafat's Cease Fire is Unpopular'

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TIME.com: What is the mood in Palestinian areas as CIA director George Tenet flies in to chair new security talks?

Jamil Hamad:You can still feel a great deal of tension. There were clashes today between settlers and the Palestinian population near Nablus and in Hebron. And shooting incidents have continued despite the cease fire declared by Yasser Arafat. In this situation, European and American efforts to confirm the cease fire agreements are threatened by many land mines. The cease fire on the Palestinian side was not an outcome of national consensus or consultation, so there is a feeling among Palestinians that this cease fire was a response by Arafat to international pressure and Israeli threats — the cease fire agreement is not popular on the Palestinian streets.

What is the position of Hamas? They were reported on Monday as having agreed to a cease fire, and then on Tuesday they insisted that they were not bound by any cease fire…

Hamas did not sign a cease fire agreement, as was initially reported. Those reports were based on claims by the Paletinian Authority, but Hamas immediately came out and rejected the cease fire, and Islamic Jihad did not even attend the meeting in Ramallah that discussed the issue. So there are still a large group of Palestinians who oppose the cease fire. Don't forget, half of Arafat's own Fatah organization, or even more, are against the cease fire, and have come out with statements saying they're not responsible for the security of Israel.

So will Tenet succeed in persuading Arafat to arrest Hamas and Islamic Jihad members?

That would be Stage 10. Stage 1 is to make the Israelis and Palestinians sign a written agreement about a cease fire. The Americans are interested at this point primarily in stability, in the continuation of the cease fire. But to restore security cooperation, the Americans will have to apply a lot of pressure. Because security cooperation is unacceptable to the Palestinians on the street, and the PA is afraid of cooperating with Israel at a time when the Palestinians on the street are getting nothing in exchange.

So Tenet has, at best, a 50-50 chances of persuading Arafat to make some arrests. And if tomorrow a terror attack takes place, all the international efforts will fall apart. So it's a very risky situation, because at the same time, the Palestinian opposition groups are afraid they'll be sold out in this agreement.

What will the Palestinians tell Tenet?

They will say they need timetable for implementing the Mitchell Report, and that they need the Israelis to move back their tanks and troops from the West bank towns and to lift the closure. The list of Palestinian demands are long, but I don't know if the Americans will be able to respond positively. They can't. Still, the Palestinians may find themselves accepting European and American conditions because they are weaker. But in light of the feeling on the street, nobody's expecting a breakthrough.