Killing Arafat would hurt peace process

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Tribune editorial staff

Make no mistake about it, Yasser Arafat is a threat to peace. But Israel's recent vigilante solutions, including calling for his head, will do nothing more than set the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks back decades.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's closest ally and a man frequently mentioned as his likely successor - said in a television interview that assassinating Arafat was an option as the Israeli government strives to halt extremist attacks on its civilians. The threat may have been rhetoric designed to stir political awareness, but it could, in fact, lead to more problems for the Israeli people.

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Ten years ago, Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat signed the Oslo Peace Accord on the White House lawn. The ensuing handshake was meant to lead to a Palestinian state beside a secure Israel. But things changed drastically soon thereafter.

Rabin was murdered by one of his countrymen and the Oslo process failed. Now, the U.S.-backed "road map" toward peace has apparently reached a dead end. Former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who pledged to curb Hamas and Islamic Jihad, resigned earlier this month in frustration after Arafat denied him control of Palestinian security services.

The United States will not jump on the kill-Arafat band wagon, warning Israel earlier this week that expelling or killing Arafat would not help the peace process. Were it not for U.S. pressure, however, Israel would have likely made its threat against the Palestinian leader a long time ago or, perhaps, even tried to assassinate him.

Arafat is an obstacle to the peace process. He has betrayed his people and has failed to use his

powers as a leader to try and stop suicide bombings. Even the many Palestinians who despise him will not publicly criticize him because he is threatened by Israel.

Killing or expelling Arafat would turn him into a martyr. He could, in fact, be more of a threat in exile. If he is kicked out, he will rule from abroad; if he is killed, the violence is likely to erupt tenfold.