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Israeli threat shows lack of commitment to peace

The recent assertion by Israeli Cabinet Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Yasser Arafat “can no longer be a factor in what happens here,” is simply a reassertion of the Israeli right wing’s lack of commitment to peace between Jordan and the Mediterranean. The vice prime minister went further, telling Israeli radio, “Expulsion (of Yasser Arafat) is certainly one of the options, and killing is also one of the options.”

No one can deny that militant terrorists also reasserted their lack of commitment to peace in the region through recent deadly suicide bombings. Threatening to assassinate the Palestinian leader is the first overt statement by Ariel Sharon’s government that it will not continue along a “road map” for peace. They are not committed to even a minimal withdrawal from the occupied territories or allowing the Palestinian people to live independently of Israeli jurisdiction.

The United Nations has responded to Olmert’s comments by sharply condemning the Israeli decision. The Security Council drafted a resolution demanding “that Israel, the occupying power, desist from any act of deportation and to cease any threat to the safety of the elected president of the Palestinian Authority.” The resolution’s “elected president” in mind is Yasser Arafat. The United States – Israel’s largest supporter – vowed to veto the resolution.

Predictably, Israel’s foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, rescinded Monday the comment made a day earlier calling the killing an option that is “not the official policy of the Israeli government.” What then does “official” really mean? This crying wolf certainly lends no credibility to Israel.

The Israeli justification for its earlier comments vary between the deduced notion that the Palestinian Authority – led by Yasser Arafat – indirectly supports terrorism by not using its pseudo-state security forces to crack down on militants such as the Hamas group, or that Yasser Arafat vocally supports terrorism by his statements. He made one such comment Monday when he said, “(Palestinians) are the brave people, and we will continue until we reach Jerusalem.” He was implying that the Palestinian cause for an independent state will not be fully realized until East Jerusalem is in the hands of the Palestinian people. East Jerusalem is the aspired-for capital of the Palestinian state and was annexed and settled by Israel at the beginning of the 1967 military occupation. 

While Yasser Arafat might be a man obstructing the advancement of peace and stifling of terrorism in the Middle East, one need not look further than Ariel Sharon to see the mirror image of obstructionism. 

It is clear a double standard is applied to Palestinians by the Israelis – especially Sharon’s dominant Likud Party. The Israeli prime minister is not without some unscrupulous blood on his hands. 

During a murky period of Ariel Sharon’s military past – three days in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982 – Israeli troops under Sharon violated a peace truce and entered West Beirut. Shortly thereafter, a group of Phalangist soldiers – Maronite allies during the politically multifaceted 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon – were aided by Sharon’s troops in entering the refugee camps.

Two days later, more than 800 Palestinian refugees – mostly women and children – were massacred as Sharon carried out his designs of eradicating Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization from Lebanon. Yet the refugee camps had little to do with Arafat’s violent confrontation with the Israeli military. Indeed, historical speculators suspect Sharon’s military charge – acting without Cabinet approval – assisted in the Maronite plan of purifying Lebanon of Palestinian refugees. Investigations into the matter have proved biased and thus inconclusive.

Yet the top man in Israel remains quite popular among his constituents, facing little scrutiny about his past, and he continues to support the expansion of settlements on the West Bank – perhaps the most inflammatory issue obstructing the “road map” for peace in the region. Indeed, according to documents reaching as far back as 1988, Sharon’s Likud Party platform said, “Israel has a right and a claim to sovereignty, over Judea, Samaria (the West Bank), and the Gaza District.” This position is obviously not conducive to peace.

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