Recently released British documents have revealed that former President George W Bush ordered the CIA to search for a replacement for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat after the escalation of the second Intifada in 2001.
According to the documents, this decision was made in response to the failure of the Camp David negotiations between Arafat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000, which was due to the escalation of violence in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The meeting was initially held by then-president Bill Clinton.
When Bush was inaugurated in 2001, the second Palestinian uprising was at its height. The Bush administration called on Arafat to stop the uprising to lay the groundwork for security negotiations with Israel. The administration also vetoed a draft resolution in the United Nations Security Council that proposed sending a UN observer force to protect Palestinian civilians from Israeli forces in certain areas.
According to the minutes of the talks between Bush and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Blair described Arafat as a liability and stated that the Palestinian leader “no longer has anything to offer.” Bush agreed with Blair, describing Arafat as “weak and useless,” and revealed that he had asked the CIA to search for possible successors. However, the CIA concluded that there was no available successor.
Then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair (left), President George W Bush (right)
In contrast, the British documents revealed that the US Secretary of State at the time, Colin Powell, disagreed with Bush’s search for a replacement for Arafat. Arafat died a few years later, in November 2004, at a Paris hospital after a cerebral hemorrhage caused by a toxic substance. Palestinians and Arabs accused Israel of killing him, but the country denied any responsibility for his death.