Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Well, this is poor strategy::

Israel may have to decide on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's fate before year's end, Israel's Defence Minister said Tuesday, adding that expelling the Palestinian leader was the likely course.

Israel considers Mr. Arafat an obstacle to peace and has accused him of involvement in terrorism.

'Because this is the situation and because Arafat never wanted to reach an agreement with us ... I think that he has to disappear from the stage of history, and not be included in the ranks of the Palestinian leadership,' Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz told Israel Army Radio.

Mr. Mofaz said he favours expelling Mr. Arafat- at the right time.

'I believe that Israel made a historic mistake by not exiling him two years ago,' he said. 'With regard to the future, I think we will be compelled to deal with this issue within a relatively short period of time, very possibly even this year.'
I'm amazed at Mofaz's credulity and naivete- there are very good reasons why Israel has not exiled him. (I hope that I don't have to put quotes around "exile".)

As should be relatively obvious, he's not Israel's to exile. Like him or not (and many don't, to be sure), he was elected by the Palestinian people to be their president, and I haven't seen any significant challenges to the legitimacy of those votes. (Except perhaps that there hasn't been another election since, but there are some, um, extraordinary circumstances there.) He isn't as popular as he was, of course, but Abbas is neither popular nor elected. He may be more open to negotiation and that's both necessary and good, but it doesn't change things one whit.

If Israel removes him, any support that Abbas had will collapse, and the Palestinian people will move en masse to support of Hamas et al, and this is something nobody wants to see happen. Yes, Abbas and Arafat are definitely fighting it out for power right now, and Israel should take a role in ensuring that Abbas retains some- they still can't do it by threatening expulsion. Even the threat reconfirms Palestinian fears about the Israelis, and would work to ruin the goodwill and support that the Israelis derive from being the unquestionable non-cyclical "first target" after the ceasefire. It could even cause the already-embattled United States to distance itself somewhat, and that is something that Israel literally cannot afford.

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