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The blood transfusion Arafat received after leaving the Muqata with his doctors made him feel better and his condition improved. This does not mean a significant bettering of his health. It may be only a temporary upswing, but it could last a long time. That is the information Israel has, as it was presented to the government decision-makers.

This fact is weighty, given Arafat's refusal to accede to the requests of Abu Mazen and Abu Ala to fill in names, give out jobs or to delegate to them his powers as president of the Palestinian Authority and head of the PLO. Abu Mazen and Abu Ala visited Arafat at his sickbed and requested he transfer authority to them temporarily, with an appropriate division of responsibilities between them.

A completely alert Arafat understood their demands, but responded that there was no need for such a significant change. When the two repeated their demands in other ways, he asked that the conversation come to an end, a roundabout way of asking them to leave the room. This means that Arafat left for France with all his powers intact.

The decision by Abu Mazen and Abu Ala to convene the various PLO and PA institutions is important from a symbolic point of view, but it has no practical significance as long as Arafat's principal powers have not been transferred to them - or if they decide to take them in a putsch, which does not seem likely.

After the various institutions convene, can Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Ala claim that the Preventive Security organization in the West Bank and Gaza, for example, is subject to him, and will its members obey his orders? Will Fatah's Al Aksa Brigades now obey Abu Mazen? The answer is no in both cases. The organizations are still subject to Arafat, who is in the hospital in Paris, and not to Abu Ala or Abu Mazen.

Politically, this means that due to Arafat's health, Israel and the Palestinians and the conflict between them may be entering a long and nebulous intermediate period. In this intermediate period the two sides will have difficulty making important decisions. As time goes on, Hamas or its partner, Islamic Jihad, may be the ones to disrupt the status quo.