The body of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will be exhumed in Ramallah in late November as part of a probe into allegations that he died from polonium poisoning. Inviting Russian experts to the exhumation last week, Chairman of the Palestinian National Administration Mahmoud Abbas said that he hoped for an objective inquiry that would bring the truth out.
Controversy surrounding Arafat’s death has continued unabated since November 2004 when he was rushed into a French military hospital where he died shortly afterwards from a massive stroke, according to an official version.
In July 2012, a team of Swiss experts found traces of polonium on Arafat’s clothes sent by his widow, which prompted the Arab Al Jazeera TV channel that ordered the test to declare that he had been poisoned. The exhumation is due to take place on November 26 with experts from France and Switzerland and also from Russia attending.
The anti-Abbas opposition has been speculating that he and some of his supporters had allegedly pushed Arafat towards stepping down. Faced with these suspicions against him, Abbas is seeking to achieve full objectivity, aware that the opposition may attempt to manipulate even the pseudo information. That’s why he turned to Russia for help – because he wants greater objectivity.
It could also be that Abbas knows that his political foes are plotting something against him. If so, then the moment has been well chosen. Before the end of the month, the UN General Assembly is due to vote on whether to grant the Palestinian Autonomy the status of a non-member observer state.
Abbas is hoping to obtain evidence against his opponents in the Fatah leadership and accuse them of murdering the legendary ‘Rais’ and probably even send them to jail. Either he already knows what the results of laboratory tests will be like, or he simply wants an authoritative consortium of nuclear researchers to confirm what he already knows. I think that the latter is more likely.
If the analyst proves to be right, the next question will be: how did polonium get into Arafat’s body? There are few polonium producing plants in the world, and the products of each have specific marks that makes it possible to identify them.
By inviting Russian experts to the exhumation, Mahmoud Abbas kind of urges Russia to play a greater role in the Middle East settlement. The peace process is faltering and the Western scenario isn’t working.