Ramallah, Agencies - The Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) has said that the ongoing peace talks hinder the prosecution of Israel for its crimes, especially through the International Criminal Court for the assassination of Yasser Arafat. Hassan Khreisheh told Al Ghad news that the Palestinian leadership is committed to the negotiations until the end of their preset timeline, but after that the PA will be free to approach the United Nations and join organisations such as the ICC.
"The Palestinian Authority is the only official body to demand the formation of an international commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the assassination of President Arafat and to prosecute those involved," he pointed out. The PA's demand was put to US Secretary of State John Kerry during his recent visit to the occupied territories. "However," added Khreisheh, "the Palestinian leadership is not serious about an international investigation into Arafat's death because then it would have to stop the negotiations with Israel and go to the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli leaders as war criminals."
According to the PLC official, the Palestinian commitment to freeze requests for UN assistance during the negotiations will override the "seasonal" interest in Arafat's death and will relieve Israel from any pressure to hold its leaders accountable for assassinating the late president. "The Palestinian people do not need to wait for the investigation results to reveal the identity of those involved in Arafat's assassination," he said. "They understand fully that Israel was responsible."
Arab states, regional and international parties as well as Palestinian parties have been unwilling to uncover the facts since the first day, alleged Khreisheh. "France has not yet submitted its report, making it complicit in hiding the fact as well." French President Francois Hollande's visit to Palestine, which coincided with the anniversary of Arafat's death, was made in order to reassure the Israelis that France will not provide any reports or information to the Palestinians as recent rumours suggested, the Deputy Speaker claimed. Arafat died in a French military hospital on November 11, 2004.
Furthermore, he suggested that earlier demands for an international inquiry were ignored and the Palestinian investigation was not thorough. "Arab doctors from Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan who treated the late president before his death evaded questions from the parliamentary commission of inquiry and refused to sit with its members." Despite the best efforts of the current internal investigation team, led by General Tawfiq Tirawi of the Fatah Central Committee, the leadership must push for an international inquiry, he insisted.
Swiss experts confirmed earlier this month that post-mortem medical tests on samples taken from Arafat's body and clothes "support and are consistent with the hypothesis" that he was poisoned with polonium. They did not, however, assert that polonium actually caused his death.