In a recent discussion with an Arab ambassador in the know, I learned some interesting things about the way the Kuwaiti, Saudi, and other governments made payments to Yasir Arafat in the days before the Iraqi invasion of August 2, 1990.
According to this official, the authorities made all checks out to Arafat personally, who deposited 75 percent of the funds in the Arab Bank branch in Zurich and the rest in the same bank's branch in Amman. When Arafat paid for PLO expenses he used a personal check drawn on his Arab Bank account. The official explained this odd situation in two ways: they didn't want to make out checks to Habash and other unsavory elements; and they wanted to have someone they could hold responsible for the money.
The story gets even more interesting. Arafat never made out a will because he feared that if he did, the partisans of his heir(s) would bump him off. But of course, had he died intestate, the PLO would have had a very tough time getting access to his money.
Everything changed when he got married 2-3 years ago to Suha Tawil. She's now the heir. While on the one hand, this means that there's someone to inherit the money, it also creates enormous strains between the PLO leadership and her. That explains why Abu Mazin refused to come to Washington for the White House ceremony if she came along too.
Obviously, this situation is about to change with the PLO's new legitimacy and the fact that Western states are not about to put government aid in a private account.
In discussing the Israel-PLO accord, the official reported very mixed emotions in Kuwait. On the one hand, there's a sense of delight and exhilaration that the Arab-Israeli swamp will now be flushed. (Or to use his graphic term, "we have ridded ourselves of the Shirt of 'Uthman"; an allusion to the blood-stained shirt of the brutally murdered third caliph.) On the other hand, "It's the PLO," he said with obvious disgust. To which I responded, "Welcome to the club."