A spokesman for the Israeli government says yesterday's decision by the Israel Security Cabinet to expel Yasser Arafat is just another page in Israel's ongoing struggle against Palestinian terrorism. Still, some hope the removal of the Palestinian strongman will break a logjam in the peace process.
Israel's Security Cabinet decided that it has had enough of Yasser Arafat, and has voted in principle to expel the terrorist. No timetable has been set for that expulsion.
Shumuel Ben Shumuel, consular general of the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta, Georgia, says the cabinet had to decide ultimately whether Arafat was a greater threat inside or outside the region. Many believe Arafat has been behind most of the vicious terrorist attacks by Palestinians in the last three years.
"We are reaching now a point where more and more Israelis think Arafat caused more damage by staying in the territory. As we found out in the past few weeks, when he actually blocked any attempt of the first prime minister to move forward -- and he will do the same with the second prime minister -- he's the strongman behind the scenes," Ben Shumuel says.
The Consulate spokesman says Israel is prepared for Palestinian reaction to the Cabinet's decision. "Of course, we have to expect more violence from the Palestinians," he says, "but we have enough violence as is, and we are well prepared for any development."
Ben Shumuel says while Israel will consider the American position before implementing any plan to oust Arafat, at the end of the day, Israel will have to make the decision.
Arafat -- Roadblock to Peace?
Ben Shmuel is not alone is his assessments. The choice to expel Arafat has come as no surprise to many who have been calling him the catalyst of Middle East violence for years. Shoshana Bryen of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs insists that Arafat has intentionally blocked the "roadmap to peace." She says until Arafat is dealt with, there will be no peace, and Palestinian negotiators will be useless.
"As long as Yasser Arafat is in control of the Palestinian Authority -- in control of the politics, in control of the weapons and the forces -- nobody who's named prime minister will be able to accomplish what the United States wants that person to accomplish," Bryen says.
Even then, the national security analyst believes finding peace between Israel and Palestine will be almost impossible. "The Palestinians still have not assimilated the idea that there ought to be a state of Israel next to them," she says. Although she believes part of the reason for this is that Arafat is still in power and "threatens bodily harm to anyone who disagrees with him," Bryen says as long as the attitude persists that Israel is not a legitimate interlocutor for negotiations, peace talks will be futile.
Still, as homicide bombers continue to kill innocent Israeli men, women, and children, and as the Israel military forces strike back against Hamas leaders, many people are saying that Arafat's expulsion will be an important step in the right direction.
A Call for 'Extreme Justice'
But the number-one newspaper is saying that expelling Arafat does not go far enough. Less than 24 hours after Israel's Security Cabinet announced its decision, an editorial appeared in the Jerusalem Post saying that expulsion and exile are not the answer. Instead, it says, Arafat must be killed.
The editorial goes on to blame Arafat for the failure of former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to deal with terrorist elements, saying he was unsuccessful because Arafat wanted him to fail. Moreover, it says the new prime minister Arafat chose this week will do no better.
The Post also condemns Europe for continuing to support the Palestinian strongman, and says that "Arafat's survival and power are a test of the proposition that it is possible to pursue a cause through terror ... and not have that cause rejected by the international community." The newspaper says killing Arafat would demonstrate that the tool of terror is unacceptable, even against Israel -- even in the name of a Palestinian state.
© 2003 Agape Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.