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Closing in on Arafat

22 September 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat is at the end of his rope, surrounded in his Mukata headquarters as Israeli bulldozers and heavy equipment rip apart the last semblance of what was to be future Palestinian independence.  Along with several dozen advisors, security men and terrorists (the most prominent being Tufik Tirawi – head of General Intelligence in the West Bank) Arafat will be confined to one building, or maybe just part of it

Despite the fact that the operation began on Thursday night after the terror attack in Tel Aviv (5 killed and tens wounded), the UN Security Council will only meet tomorrow and so far world protests have been light.  There have been demonstrations in the Palestinian areas and some diplomatic activity by the Arab states, but nothing too intense.

In Israel the discussion is once again whether to throw Arafat out or not.  Prime Minister Sharon, apparently for internal political reasons has made it clear he wants Arafat’s exile, but since Labor and all the security services, including the army (and its new Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon) object, no expulsion will take place in the near future.  Former PM Benyamin Netanyahu and the Right demand Arafat’s removal, and Sharon has out maneuvered them through agreement.

Israel’s first task is to round up the terrorist hiding with him as it destroys his government complex.  Sharon does not want another Church of the Nativity standoff.  Swift but extremely careful action must be taken, so neither innocents are hurt nor Arafat himself, who enjoys immunity despite his terror infested background.

The Tel Aviv terror attack was committed by the Hamas and they need to be dealt with next.  With their stronghold in the Gaza Strip it is not likely Israel will take any action against them soon, to do so will involve hundreds of Israeli soldiers killed and wounded, massive international pressure and removal of the world focus from Iraq to the Palestinians.  Except for specified actions it appears any major operation will have to wait until winter and US moves against Iraq.

As for the Right, they are blowing off a lot of steam.  An exiled Arafat wandering around Europe would do Israel no good, much better he should be confined to a couple of rooms in Ramallah.  He will no longer be under ‘house arrest’ in his headquarters, but rather sit in a self made jail. 

It is likely he too will sit there until winter and at the opportune moment (possibly during an American attack on Iraq) be removed to some other location.