At the beginning of that war
he could have left the city easily. Everyone would have understood that
a national leader must save himself. During the 1948 war, Ben Gurion did
not remain in besieged Jerusalem. But Arafat remained with his fighters.
When I met him, he was in high spirits, the near-euphoric mood peculiar
to fighters who believe that they are going to die. But he got out of
Beirut alive, at the head of his fighters.
A year later, I met Arafat in
Geneva, at the session of the UN general assembly held there especially
for him. We talked, and again I noticed his high spirits. The next day I
understood why: immediately after our conversation he went to Lebanon
and then somehow managed to steal into Tripoli.
The PLO forces in Tripoli where
at that time besieged by the Syrians and their agents. Hafez al-Assad
was determined to get rid of Arafat once and for all by killing him off.
Arafats voluntary entrance into this trap looked like an act of
madness. But on that occasion, too, he got out alive, at the head of his
Now he is staying in besieged
Gaza, which is completely surrounded, and in Israel there is a public
debate about whether to kill him. The settlers demand this openly. The
Chief-of-Staff and his helpless generals utter threats publicly. When
General Mofaz declared that the Palestinian Authority is a "terrorist
entity", he was preparing the ground for the assassination of
Arafat and the destruction of the Authority.
If anyone is hoping that Arafat
will flee in order to save his life, he can forget about it. Arafat will
remain with his fighters in Gaza. Mofaz and his new partners Sharon,
Peres and Ben-Eliezer will have to decide whether to kill him (by
helicopters, collaborators or under-cover death-squads disguised as
Arabs) or not. Arafat looks as if he is in high spirits.
Israel is perhaps the only state
in the world where there is a public debate about the assassination of
the President of another nation, who was chosen by an overwhelming
majority in democratic elections held under international supervision.
In the United Sates, a law specifically forbids any agency to engage in
the assassination of a foreign leader. Under international law, it is a
(It should be pointed out that
after the adoption of the international convention against war crimes
and the establishment of the international criminal court, the leaders
of our state and the army would be well advised to heed this new
situation when they make decisions and execute them. Burundian, Serb and
Croat officers are already standing trial in international courts, and
Milosewic, who was supported by Sharon, will probably suffer the same
But lets put aside for a
moment the moral and legal issues, important as they are. Lets focus
on the political and military considerations.
The murder of Arafat will put him
into the world pantheon of liberation fighters who led their peoples for
tens of years and sacrificed their lives on the altar of freedom. He
will be remembered for hundreds of years after Shaul Mofaz is forgotten.
His personal example will steel his people and energize its uprising
against the occupation. The dead Arafat will be even more dangerous to
the occupation regime than the living one.
Together with Arafat, all chances
of peace will be buried. Arafat has no heir who would be able the put
his people on the track towards compromise and conciliation, even if
that was his wish. No nation forgives the murder of its leader, and
after such an act no Palestinian leader will dare to utter the word
"salaam". The war with the Palestinian people will intensify,
and in the end it will engulf all the Arab countries and lead to
Behind the proposal to murder
Arafat lies a much more serious design: to create anarchy as a pretext
for the re-conquest of the Palestinian territories, coupled this time
with the eviction of the masses of the Palestinian people. That is the
"transfer" of which Rehavam Zeevi speaks openly, and about
which the members of the new government think secretly.
I feel as if I am watching a
recorded television program rolling backwards. Sharon is taking us back
to pre-Oslo times. Mofaz is rolling us back to 1948. The media already
speak about "gangs" in the style of 1936.
But we do not live in 1936. We
are a powerful country. Facing us is a nation fighting for its freedom.
Not gangs. Not terrorists. A nation united in this fight as never before,
whose leader and symbol is Yassir Arafat, even while the fight is
When you murder a symbol, it
becomes greater and stronger.
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