Israel: Arafat 'Poisoning' Sounds More Like a Soap Opera
Israel has denied any involvement in the death of former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, and has played down accusations that the Jewish state poisoned Arafat with polonium.
On Wednesday, Al-Jazeera reported that Swiss and Russian scientists have concluded that Arafat likely died from polonium poisoning, not natural causes as initially believed.
The 108-page analysis, posted on Al-Jazeera's website, concludes that the studies "moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210" as well as "lead-210."
In response, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the BBC, "This is more soap opera than science."
Palmor said the investigations had been commissioned by "interested parties" such as Arafat's widow and the Palestinian Authority and had "never bothered" to look for some key data.
"The other huge hole in the theory is the absence of all access to the French hospital where Arafat died and to Arafat's medical files," said Palmor.
"How can the cause of death be determined without the opinion of the doctors or the results of the medical tests they ran on the patient? Israel doesn't feel concerned in the least,” he told the BBC.
Raanan Gissin, a former Israeli government spokesman, also played down the accusations that Israel had anything to do with Arafat’s death.
“It was a government decision not to touch Arafat at all,” Gissin told The Associated Press. “If anyone poisoned him, it could have been someone from his close circle.”
Some 60 samples were taken from Arafat’s remains in November last year for a probe into whether he was poisoned by polonium. The samples were divided between the Swiss and Russian investigators and a French team carrying out a probe at the request of Arafat's widow Suha.
Arafat died at age 74 in a French hospital, where he was being treated after having fallen seriously ill, in 2004. At the time, his family refused to allow an autopsy.
In 2009 PA leaders, among them Arafat’s replacement, Mahmoud Abbas, began publicly suggesting Israel was to blame for his death. Suha Arafat provided some of his clothing to a laboratory for analysis, and the clothing was found to contain polonium, a radioactive element that can cause fatal poisoning.
Arafat's widow said in an interview aired by Al-Jazeera on Wednesday that the poisoning, if proved, amounted to "the assassination of a great leader" and a "political crime."
"I don't know who did it, but it's terrible," she said.
PA leaders have threatened to petition the International Criminal Court in The Hague if the investigation finds proof that Arafat was poisoned.