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The rerun continues

By Ariel Natan Pasko
web posted September 15, 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? Well "removed", in principle. 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 that 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. By an almost unanimous vote of 10 to 1 -- Minister (Shinui Party) Avraham Poraz being the only member of the Security Cabinet to oppose the decision -- the cabinet voted in principle to "remove" Arafat, but not yet.

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 -- although some have now changed their minds -- because of the concern that he could do more damage floating around the world, as a loose cannon, US officials concur. As US Secretary of State Colin Powell recently said, "What purpose would it serve? To give him a broader stage to operate from outside of the region?" The US is also concerned about the possible repercussions on their Iraqi situation.

Arafat blows kisses to supporters from a window gathered in the grounds of his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah
Arafat blows kisses to supporters from a window gathered in the grounds of his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah

Arafat has been sequestered for about 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 till now, 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 hasn't yet brought himself to a serious decision about the next step. After catching Arafat and the PA in the Karine A weapons smuggling scandal, red handed, Sheriff Sharon exerted every effort to sideline Arafat in the diplomatic process. The Feds -- i.e. 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", they called for democratic political reform in the PA, and forced Arafat to appoint a prime minister, not to replace him but to displace him.

But Arafat appointed as prime minister his 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. He accepted the roadmap, but terrorism didn't abate.

Abbas didn't last too long as prime minister. The Israeli government has blamed Yasser Arafat for interfering with Abbas's job, but an honest look reveals otherwise. Abbas himself was unwilling to implement the roadmap commitment to criminalize terror organizations -- Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others -- and dismantle their infrastructure; he resigned on September 6th, 2003.

And who has replaced Abbas?

Ahmed Qureia -- known by his underground name, Abu Ala -- speaker of the Palestinian legislative Council; he's been touted as a moderate -- as Mahmoud Abbas was -- due to his early involvement in the Oslo process. But don't forget he's been appointed by Arafat and has no political base of his own, just like Abbas.

Ahmed Qureia

"Moderate" PA Prime Minister-elect Ahmed Qureia said in a December 1997 interview, that there would be "no compromise for one centimeter of the West Bank including Jerusalem," not even on such integral parts of Jerusalem as French Hill or Ramat Eshkol. "Nothing," Abu Ala said, "not settlements or settlers either. [French Hill and Ramat Eshkol are] occupied territory from 1967. [Those who live there] are welcome to apply for citizenship under Palestinian law."

In December 1998 -- after the Wye summit -- Qureia published an article in the PA daily Al-Hayyat Al-Jadida, stating that the borders of the future independent Palestinian State, that would be declared in May 1999, are the boundaries set by the 1947 Partition Resolution. That doesn't even give Israel Beer Sheva.

And in a September 1999 visit to China -- according to the newspaper Al-Ayyam -- Abu Ala demanded the so-called "right of return" as a basic condition for peace," Either [we achieve] a just peace that will guaranty the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people, including [the] Return, self determination, and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, or there will be no peace, but a return to the struggle in all its forms." Very moderate indeed.

So here we are, watching this "old movie" again. Arafat again is being blamed for holding up the peace process. This time, Arafat's been blamed for interfering with Abu Mazen's "attempts" to move along the roadmap, and for his resignation.

Sharon aide Raanan Gissin said, Israel told the United States after the last round of threats to expel Arafat, "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." Other Israeli officials at the time said that deportation was not being discussed, rather, how Arafat could be neutralized.

But now, several horrific terrorist bombings and one prime minister later, the Israeli Security Cabinet decided to run him out of town for good, "in principle". According to the cabinet announcement, "Events of recent days have reiterated and proven again that Yasser Arafat is a complete obstacle to any process of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel will work to remove this obstacle in a manner, and at a time, of it's choosing." They've told the Israeli Army to get ready.

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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