Why Not Kill Arafat?

Posted: Sep 18, 2003 12:00 AM

 A decade after the Oslo peace accords, the new Middle East “solution” being floated is the expulsion of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat—but that discussion misses the point.  The debate should not be whether or not to kick out the master terrorist, but whether he should be locked up in complete isolation or simply killed.

 Yasser Arafat has had 10 years to stop the torrent of terror attacks that continue to claim the lives of innocent Israelis (and Americans) to this very day.  He hasn’t.  In fact, he hasn’t even tried.

  But why should he risk a civil war and tumult within his own “mainstream” Fatah by actually clamping down on the terrorists?  Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon long ago promised the United States that he would not harm Arafat.  At least to this point, Arafat hasn’t even faced the threat of being kicked out of the West Bank.

  Let’s assume for a moment, though, that the current talk of possible expulsion becomes a reality.  Arafat might have a tricky time finding a new home—Syria and Jordan wouldn’t want him, and his old friend Saddam no longer has a country—but once he does, he has untold sums in numbered bank accounts that would cushion his fall.

  As long as Arafat is in the picture, things can only get worse.  Now-departed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas proved a miserable—and inept—failure.  He couldn’t even consolidate control over the security services; Abbas’ longtime boss decided against relinquishing the reins of the real power.  International pressure may have been enough to force Arafat to name Abbas as Prime Minister, but it wasn’t enough to prevent him from acting as Abbas’ puppetmaster.

  The only path to peace is one paved with the complete removal of Arafat from the Palestinian equation.  His mere presence dominates; he is incapable of playing a supporting role or becoming a marginalized outcast. 

  If he is in a foreign land, he will simply use his money and his left-behind thugs to maintain his heavy hand.  Trapped in his Ramallah compound, as he is now, may have hobbled him politically, but it has not even affected him operationally.  With a cell phone in his hand and his lieutenants dotting the landscape, he is able to conduct or allow terrorist attacks just as he always has.

  That’s why killing Arafat must at least be discussed.  It is not the only option—or maybe even the right one—but it has to be a potential one.

  The European Union could arrest Arafat and try him for crimes against humanity—but only if the master terrorist starts murdering non-Jews.  But that shouldn’t stop Israel from taking its own action.  What’s preventing the Sharon government from arresting Arafat and placing him in solitary confinement?  After a year or two of Arafat living in a ten-by-fifteen foot cage, charges of the intentional slaughter of innocent civilians could be brought against him.  At least in Israel, the murder of Jews still counts as murder.

  The only other viable option to placing Arafat in solitary confinement is the question more and more people are finally starting to ask: why not kill Arafat?  That’s not to say that that is necessarily the answer, but why is it not even a question?  In the words of Ariel Sharon, Hamas’ leaders are “marked for death.”  How is the man responsible for at least as many murders—directly through al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Fatah and indirectly by allowing attacks to occur—different than Hamas terrorists?

  And if the “international community” protests—which it no doubt will—Israel should simply point out that when the United States bombed Tora Bora in Afghanistan and the Baghdad restaurant before Operation Iraqi Freedom in a “decapitation strike,” the U.S. was not trying to injure or scare Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.

  But one thing is for sure: if Israel threatens Arafat with his possible demise (behind the scenes—his reputation cannot be challenged publicly if Israel wants to respond appropriately), terrorist activity could quickly decline to its lowest level since the start of the intifada.  That would finally mark the kind of progress that Oslo should have sought.