Sharon’s right-hand man, Ehud Olmert, says that killing Arafat is definitely an option. This follows Israel’s threat to force Arafat into exile. It also follows widespread demonstrations, in reaction to the exile idea, from Palestinians and others in support of Arafat.
Prior to the initial threat of exile, many Palestinians would have been nonchalant about the voluntary resignation of Arafat, and would likely have rallied behind a new leader in the hopes of finally resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. ‘Let’s get back to the so-called road map’ was the prevailing sentiment.
Not surprisingly, at the first hint of an imposed exile, Arafat is newly popular, a beloved leader that Palestinians are 100% behind.
Imagine what their reaction would be if Israel makes good on the assasination threat.
First of all, removing Arafat is a useless gesture that will only serve to ascerbate the situation and create a martyr around whom the anti-Israeli movement can rally. In the introduction to her newest edition of The Demon Lover, Robin Morgan makes the point that removing the leader from a terrorist organization will no more end terrorism that would Bill Gates’ having a heart attack end capitalism – nor, as a friend commented, would it end Microsoft.
Secondly, many would argue that the only difference between Arafat and the hawkish Sharon is international recognition – and that the only difference between the Palestinian war effort and that of Israel is tanks and uniforms. Can the Palestinians reply that sure, they’ll dump Arafat, provided the Knesset ousts Sharon? We’ll depose our leader if you depose yours? How can the Israelis legitimately call for a clean slate on one side without putting forth some of their own representatives who are a little more flexible and a lot less retaliatory?
It all makes me wonder if the Israeli leaders are even remotely interested in the famous road map. Maybe what they’re really looking for is an excuse to eradicate the problem – if we can provoke a big enough Palestinian revolt, we’ll have no choice but to go in there, guns blazing, and just get rid of the problem once and for all. After all, if there are no Palestinians, there can be no Palestinian-Israeli conflict.