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Why Arafat is not Being Expelled

The Cabinet decided last night not to expel Yasser Arafat - despite what Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz calls "clear evidence" showing his involvement in the recent wave of terrorism.
First Publish: 5/19/2003, 12:27 PM

The Cabinet decided last night not to expel Yasser Arafat - despite what Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz calls "clear evidence" showing his involvement in the recent wave of terrorism. Several reasons have been provided. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says that Israel has not given up on the 20 wanted terrorists hiding out in the Mukata headquarters with Arafat - implying that his expulsion would somehow make catching them more difficult. He used the same logic to explain to Abu Mazen two nights ago why he could not remove the siege from Arafat's headquarters.

Defense Minister Mofaz gave a different reason this morning when speaking with Tel Aviv University audience. He said that Israel does not wish to cause extra troubles for the Abu Mazen government. "To expel him at this time," Mofaz said, "would be interpreted by the Palestinians as something that Abu Mazen requested, which will lessen the chances that he will be able to function effectively as prime minister." The Defense Minister admitted that Israeli intelligence information indicates Arafat's direct involvement in some of the recent murderous attacks. He acknowledged that if Arafat continues to order and control terrorism, "we will reconsider his expulsion." Abu Mazen, on whose anti-terrorism efforts Israel continues to pin much hope, was one of the founding members, with Arafat, of the PLO, and the two have worked together hand-in-hand since then.

Prime Minister Sharon had another explanation for the decision to keep Arafat here at present. "It’s better that Arafat stays stuck in the Mukata than that he review honor guards [on official visits] in Europe," he told the ministers. Ministers Effie Eitam, Yisrael Katz, and Danny Naveh demanded at last night's Cabinet meeting that Arafat be expelled.