Israel's security Cabinet said Thursday it would work to "remove" Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, a decision that could mean the Palestinian leader's expulsion from his Ramallah compound, the Israeli prime minister's office said.I just finished seeing the throngs of people outside Arafat's headquarters on CNN, and I'm driven to wonder what, exactly, the Israelis plan to do. They can't simply bull their way into an armed mob... if they used nonviolent methods they'd get shot, and if they use lethal force it'll be seen as a massacre outside of the Israeli and American press. (Depending on the situation, they may even be right.)
Thousands of enraged Palestinians in Ramallah, Gaza City, Nablus, Tulkarem and Khan Younis took to the streets in protest.
In Gaza, throngs of Palestinians -- many of them firing rifles and pistols into the air -- marched through the city Thursday night chanting slogans such as "With our blood, with our lives, we sacrifice ourselves for you, Arafat" and "Listen, Sharon, Arafat is not going out."
Also, what do they plan to do with Arafat once they expel him? They pretty much have to let him go, and I'd argue that an Arafat who is free to travel outside the country is more dangerous than an Arafat still in the West Bank. At least now the U.S. and Israelis can keep tabs on him; if they choose to go through with this, he'll disappear and simply run the show from offstage. It certainly won't placate the Palestinians, who might well be willing to see the back of Arafat were it not in exchange for de-facto Israeli control. The American's can't be happy, as it'll make their job in muslim countries that much harder. Israel's painstaking attempts to gain the high ground, finally achieved with these latest attacks, will be also out the window with the expulsion of a man that is seen as unconnected with those attacks.
Plus, anybody that follows him up will lack perceived legitimacy, unless they are elected, and I can see elections ending up with Arafat winning on a write-in vote just as a symbol of Palestinian independence.
Yes, I was expecting a war. I've gotta say, though- this is one strange way to start it.