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Arafat Leaves, Then What?

The government's dramatic Thursday night decision to "remove Arafat, but not now" continues to draw criticism. Some say it will lead directly to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

First Publish: 9/14/2003, 7:51 PM


The government's dramatic Thursday night decision to "remove Arafat, but not now" continues to draw criticism. Unnamed government ministers from both the Likud and Shinui parties have been quoted as saying that the resolution "weakens Israel and proves that we can't make important decisions without American support." Leading PA figure and Arafat-loyalist Saeb Erekat warned today that Arafat will not agree to be expelled, such that the decision to expel him means to kill him. "If that happens," Erekat said today, "this will cause chaos in the PA areas, with militant groups taking over, and the first thing they'll do will be to come to my office and kill me and all the other Palestinian moderates." Erekat was part of Arafat's PLO group that was allowed to escape Beirut to Tunisia during the 1982 Peace for Galilee War; they were allowed to enter Israel in 1993 when the Oslo Accords were signed.

GSS head Avi Dichter has joined the chorus of those who oppose expelling Arafat, saying it would be better to kill him. "Israel would face international pressure," Dichter is reported to have said in closed meetings last week, "possibly forcing it to surrender and allow him to return. Killing him would cause a few weeks of unrest, but afterwards Israel could breathe freely and the entire region would benefit from it." Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz and other senior defense figures agree with Dichter.

The UN Security Council will convene tomorrow to discuss the possible expulsion of Arafat, after it called upon Israel yesterday not to expel the PLO leader. Arafat himself, the subject of large demonstrations of support in Ramallah once again yesterday, said that Israel is trying to liquidate the entire Palestinian Authority and thus to avoid fulfilling its obligations.

Atty. Elyakim Ha'etzni of Kiryat Arba, a strong opponent of a PLO state, warned in B'Sheva this week that killing Arafat would lead precisely to that - a PLO state. The former Knesset Member explained that Condoleeza Rice said recently that the U.S. is engaged in "nation building," and that its goal in getting rid of the Hamas-Arafat terrorism is to make way for a Palestinian state. Ha'etzni writes,
"The words 'war against terrorism are actually a trap, hinting that we don't have war with the Palestinian people - who are the ones who are actually using the weapon of terrorism against us - but against the virtual concept 'terrorism,' as if it could be taken care of independently of the 120-year-old national struggle between us and the Arabs here."

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a lecturer in the Arabic Department in Bar Ilan University and a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told Arutz-7 today, "Arafat may not have been relevant for us, but he always was for the PA. Even locked up in the Mukata, he gave the orders, whether by phone, emissaries or whatever. The public demonstrations supporting him show that he is their leader, while we fell victim to some wishful thinking." Arutz-7's Yosef Zalmanson notes that Kedar himself, along with other analysts, observed that Arafat was not always a beloved leader. In March 2001, six months after Arafat initiated the Oslo War, Kedar told Arutz-7, "Arafat's popularity in the Palestinian Authority is declining significantly... [He] now has the support of only 28%. In addition, 38% of the Palestinian youth are interested in immigrating abroad. They see that the fruits of the intifada are not exactly what they expected... In many areas this intifada has brought them nothing but trouble, and so they want to send their leaders back to square one."

Kedar says that expelling Arafat will not bode well for Israel: "We will be blamed, and the bad situation will not improve. He will give the orders from abroad, but they will be even more violent... He has to be held totally cut-off from phones, visitors, etc."

The police began an investigation today against Uri Avnery and 30 extreme left-wing Gush Shalom members. They arrived in Ramallah to show support for Yasser Arafat, and said they would bodily protect Arafat against Israeli soldiers. The group may be charged with violating a military order not to enter areas under PA-control.