NEW YORK â€” Palestinian First Lady Suha Arafat â€” whose husband regularly duns governments in the Middle East and Europe to help his poverty-stricken people â€” is living in Paris on $100,000 a month from Palestinian Authority coffers. And Palestinian President Yasser Arafat has amassed a personal fortune estimated at between $1 billion and $3 billion.
CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl offers those and other choice nuggets this Sunday on "60 Minutes." Stahl told me exclusively Wednesday that Suha Arafat's mother, Raymonda Tawil, is also living lavishly â€” apparently off international largesse and the Palestinian taxpayers.
"I have visited Suha's mother and she lives very well," Stahl said. "On our last trip to Paris, we looked for Suha but we didn't find her. I heard that the French took away her bodyguards and that Palestinian bodyguards now protect her."
Rumors of the 40-year-old Suha Arafat's extravagance â€” and her 74-year-old husband's use of public funds to pay her expenses â€” have been circulating for years in the Arab world and beyond.
"The last I heard, she was living in the Bristol Hotel, which is regarded as one of the premier hotels â€” if not THE premier hotel â€” in Paris," a highly placed Arab source tells me. "It is not far from the Elysee Palace and the American Embassy and the fashionable shopping district, Rue St. Honore. I understand that she has a whole floor to herself and her entourage, and that she has been living there for over a year. Must be quite expensive, especially given the financial situation of the Palestinians. . . . And that does not include shopping and dining!"
The switchboard operator at the Bristol, where a suite and 19 rooms go for $16,000 a night, told this column yesterday: "There is no one listed under the last name Arafat at the hotel."
A Paris-based letter-writer, Eli Tabori, told the Jerusalem Post last year that Suha was said to be living with Arafat's 8-year-old daughter Zahwa "in the fashionable Neuilly quarter . . . protected from the ill-doings of her husband." Tabori added: "While Europeans find it hard to make ends meet under the yoke of their respective EU tax systems, she shops for jewelry in the Place Vendome and frequents chic boutiques."
Asked by the French magazine Le Parisien why their daughter was born in Paris, Suha Arafat explained: "Our child was conceived in Gaza, but sanitary conditions there are terrible."
Excerpted - click for full article ^