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Don't expel Arafat 2: The rerun

By Ariel Natan Pasko
web posted July 21, 2003

Like a bad movie on late night TV, we're being exposed to the inner workings of the Sharon-led Israeli government's policy processes again. Should he or shouldn't he; should Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat be expelled, deported, exiled? And like a bad, old, black & white, b-grade western, where it's so clear who the good guys and the bad guys are; the guy in the black (and white) keffiya is being told he might be told to get out of town again. Here we go again, being exposed to the inept workings of an Israeli government that can't make its mind up. Either expel him already, or shoot him, or bring him to trial like Eichmann -- ideas that politicians and pundits have recommended -- but stop teasing us already!

Israeli politicians have been raising the question of what to do with Arafat fairly cyclically since the start of Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002. Israeli intelligence has been advising against it for a while now, because of the concern that he could do more damage, floating around the world, as a loose cannon.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat waves to supporters during a meeting in his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah on July 19
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat waves to supporters during a meeting in his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah on July 19

Arafat has been sequestered for almost 18 months in his Mukatah compound in Ramallah. I have to admit that Israel hasn't yet been "too smart" in dealing with him. Israel should have long ago cut his access to the telephone, the media and visitors. Heck, in the Middle Ages, they would have just dumped him in the dungeon -- if they didn't kill him -- locked away for years, without any sight or sound of him.

Israel's position has been that he can travel abroad, but might not be allowed to return. But then every so often they roll out the "threat" of expelling him. And like that old rerun, we've seen so many times before, we already know the ending to the story. There's no drama here, just two tired old men, Sharon and Arafat, two old adversaries locked in a love-hate relationship of their own making.

The real question is why do we have to be exposed, like some voyeur, to their struggles. Put Arafat on trial for crimes against humanity, i.e. the Jewish people, his war crimes in Lebanon, the American diplomats he's already admitted years ago to having ordered killed in Sudan, and all the other victims of his decades old serial murder spree in the name of Palestinian independence, and get it over with already!

After having worked hard to prove that Arafat and the "old" Palestinian Authority government was directly behind ongoing terrorism in Israel, Sharon has yet to bring himself to a serious decision about the next step. Catching Arafat and the PA in the Karine A weapons smuggling scandal, red handed, Sheriff Sharon has exerted every effort to sideline Arafat in the diplomatic process. The Feds, Bush and the Americans bought into it, but the Europeans haven't so much. The Quartet -- the US, EU, UN and Russia -- proposed the "roadmap process", called for democratic political reform in the PA, and forced Arafat to appoint a prime minister, not to replace him but to displace him.

Who did they appoint prime minister, but Arafat's second-in-command, co-founder of Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, know as Abu Mazen. Abu Mazen a holocaust denier, Abu Mazen implicated in the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre of Israeli athletes, Abu Mazen who as late as March 2003 -- just before his appointment -- called for the killing of Jewish settlers. Abu Mazen has been portrayed universally as a "peacenik" since "accepting" the roadmap in April, and attending two summits with George Bush, in Egypt and Jordan. He's even received an invitation to the White House, something denied Arafat by Bush.

At a recent meeting with UN envoy Terje Larsen -- no friend of Israel -- Arafat accused PA Prime Minister Abbas of "betraying the interests of the Palestinian people." According to a Palestinian source present at the meeting, the ferocity of the outburst even surprised long-time Arafat associates. This followed a number of attacks on Abu Mazen recently by Fatah Central Committee members, and his recent resignation from the central committee. Abu Mazen also offered to resign as prime minister. Arafat's associates have accused Abbas of crimes ranging from misconduct in negotiations with Israel to conspiring with Israel to keepArafat under siege in Ramallah. But in the latest twist -- the honor amongst thieves -- Abu Mazen and Arafat announced they've worked out their differences.

So here we are, watching this "old movie" again, Arafat again is being blamed for holding up the peace process, now he's interfering with Abu Mazen's "attempts" to move along the roadmap. As Sharon aide Raanan Gissin recently said Israel told the United States "that we would have no other choice but to re-examine the status and condition of Mr. Arafat due to the fact that he continues to attempt to scuttle the road map to peace and undermine Abu Mazen and his government in his efforts to implement the road map." But other Israeli officials say that deportation is not being discussed, rather, how Arafat can be neutralized.

Before leaving for his recent three-day visit to Britain and Norway, Sharon accused the Europeans of undermining PA Prime Minister Abbas by maintaining contact with Arafat. "He controls the larger part of their armed forces, still part of the money, and he got all those telephone calls from leaders, mostly from Europe, and he receives messages, ministers of foreign affairs and others," Sharon said. "Every act of this nature only postpones the progress in the process. Most European countries are doing that. By that they are undermining Abu Mazen. This is a major mistake. I hope with time they will understand this."

But the British didn't buy it. Sharon urged Britain to cut ties with Arafat during talks with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in London. A British official said Straw "made it clear that the British position, which is also that of the European Union is that we would continue to have dealings with Arafat, who is the democratically elected president of the Palestinian Authority." Later that day Sharon had dinner with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who rebuffed his attempt to persuade Britain to sever all contact with Yasser Arafat.

There you have it. The commercials come on, you start to get tired, and ask yourself is it worth it to stay up, push yourself, and watch the ending. You've seen this flick before. You know how it's going to end. And like an old movie you've seen before, you hope the bad guys "gonna' get it". Arafat should be tried in Israel like Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann. But you know the ending, he's "gonna' get away" again!

Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko (c) 2003/5763 Pasko

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