One of the Middle East's greatest political mysteries will come a step closer to being solved on Tuesday when scientists exhume iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's remains to see if he was poisoned.Arafat became president of the PA in 1994 - he essentially appointed himself. Although in 1996 the PA held "elections" where Arafat ran essentially unopposed to keep his incumbency.
"It is very painful. It is a shock, and it is not easy for myself or my daughter," Arafat's widow Suha told AFP by telephone from her home in Malta ahead of the controversial procedure.
"But we must do it to turn the page on the great secrecy surrounding his death. If there was a crime, it must be solved."
French judges in charge of the investigation arrived on Sunday evening in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where Arafat's mausoleum stands in the grounds of the Muqataa complex from which the late leader ruled and where president Mahmud Abbas has his headquarters.
Rumours and speculation have surrounded Arafat's death ever since a quick deterioration of his health saw his passing at the Percy military hospital near Paris in November 2004 at the age of 75.
French doctors were unable to say what killed the Palestinians' first democratically-elected president and an autopsy was never performed, at his widow's request.
But many Palestinians believed he was poisoned by Israel -- a theory that gained ground in July when Al-Jazeera reported Swiss findings showing abnormal quantities of the radioactive substance polonium on Arafat's personal effects.
The laborious investigation process will see French experts work alongside colleagues from Switzerland and Russia.
The Swiss are here because they were the first to analyse the Arafat samples submitted to them by Al-Jazeera.
The Russians' presence has not been fully explained by the Palestinians. However, the country is responsible for most of the world's polonium production and should therefore have the expertise to handle remains of the dangerous substance.
But that brings up the question of exactly why the Russians are there to begin with. Why would the PLO insist on bringing them in? Conspiracy theorists might think that they are there to plant polonium on the remains to be found by the French and Swiss.
The whole thing is a circus whose entire purpose is to find a way to blame Israel for Arafat's death. The National says, improbably:
It is possible that this latest inquiry will conclude natural causes, which would be closure of a sort.Which is ridiculous. Even if nothing is found - or, less likely, strong evidence of a different cause of death - the Palestinian Arabs will continue to cling to their theory of his being murdered by Israel.
After all, how can you eliminate Joo-Rays?
My post about how the polonium numbers don't add up is here.