September 13, 2003


Exit Arafat?: What removing Yasser Arafat would mean. (William Kristol, 09/22/2003, Weekly Standard)

The government of Israel will decide whether and how to follow through on its threat to remove Arafat. The American government can and should give the Israeli government our best counsel in private, and perhaps in public as well. But the administration's professed reasons for opposing the removal of Arafat are unimpressive. And they seem altogether de-linked from any underlying moral and strategic judgment of what the war on terror requires, and what those who support and sponsor terror deserve.

Right now, to take just one example, Mullah Omar is hiding in the wilds of Afghanistan or Pakistan, subject to being killed if and when we find him. In what way is Yasser Arafat morally distinguishable from Mullah Omar? Is he less complicit in terror? For a decade, Israel bent over backwards to try to engage in a peace process with the chief terrorist of Palestine.

That, unfortunately, is precisely how they differ. Israel made Arafat a de facto head of state and they, along with Bill Clinton, bargained with him as an equal. He's even been in our White House, to our eternal disgrace. All of that makes it hard to now turn around and say he's just a killer, even if he is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 13, 2003 12:38 PM

Mr. Judd;

We managed it with Saddam Hussein. The truth is a frail reed against the winds of public opinion, but sometimes in the right hand it's enough.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 13, 2003 4:12 PM

The settlement we kind of negotiated in 1991 left him in power for 12 years. Not a promising template. And that was even as we made it clear he had to go. Israel held out the promise of an Arafat run state for 8 years, until George Bush said forget about it in the Rose Garden last year. Those promises took hold in the Palestinian imagination though.

Posted by: oj at September 13, 2003 5:12 PM

I really don't think the idea of statehood under Arafat excited the Palestinian imagination. Even Palestinian "moderates" like Hannan Ashwari always seemed to like bashing Israel and demanding that the US do something rather than showing the leadership required for statehood. They have no Ben-Gurion.

Posted by: jm hamlen at September 13, 2003 6:26 PM

5 options for Arafat:

1. Status Quo -- He is stirring up too much trouble. Makes Israel look weak and indecisive.

2. Exile -- Even worse he will be running around stirring up trouble. He will be on television every night.

3. Kill Him. He won't be stirring up trouble, but he will be a martyr. Besides the EUnics and the UNics will go on an anti-Israeli propaganda spree.

4. Arrest him, Put him on Trial. No EUnic and no UNic will ever think that the trial is fair. Besides his defense will be an attack on Israel. If the Judges do not allow him to put it on, they will see it as unfair. If he puts it on, it will be an all out anti-Israel propaganda blitz. Either way Israel looses.

5. House Arrest. Declare Arafat to be an Enemy Combatant and place him under house arrest. Surround his compound. Remove everyone but Arafat. Do not allow him to meet with outsiders except for Red Cross representatives. No telephones, no window appearances, no meetings with EUnics, no television, no radio. There will be an initial squawk, but after a while he will be forgotten.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 13, 2003 6:54 PM

6. Send US special forces in to Ramallah to kidnap him and haul him off to Gitmo. Publicly try him for complicity in the murder of Ambassador Cleo Noel, then hang him.

Yeah, some folks will go nuts, but they're in one way or another on the enemy side anyway, so who cares. It'll be real hard for the usual suspects to claim with a strait face that it's all a Jewish conspiracy when the trial is about the murder of an African American (It makes it particularly hard for the Democrats to object - imagined what Sharpton would say!), and it can be rightly claimed that this is not about Israel's interests, but our own. We really can't afford to let a guy who orders the murder of US diplomatic personnel to continue breathing.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at September 14, 2003 12:02 AM


What about Option 6--he simply disappears. Sure, everyone knows where he's living, but it's not that heavily guarded. Suppose a large force of IDF soldiers moves in, and when the leave, Arafat is nowhere to be found? All kinds of suspicions will be raised and voiced, but how different is that from the status quo anyway?

Posted by: KP at September 14, 2003 12:04 AM

KP: First you have to ice him for a while.

Ralph: Not if the State Department can help it.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 14, 2003 8:45 PM