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November 02, 2002

Can Palestinians govern a responsible state?

This is probably the wrong time to evict Yasser Arafat from Israel.

That concern seems to be a pivotal issue among Likud party-members as exemplified by Benjamin Netanyahu’s challenge to Ariel Sharon for Likud leader preceding the Jan. 28 elections to determine Israel’s next prime minister and the composition of the Knesset.

The question of whether Arafat should depart Israel pales in contrast to a deeper question: Are the Palestinians prepared to form and run their own independent state?

Two reasons cited for allowing Arafat to remain underscore the doubt over whether the Palestinians - as a group - are ready to take on the reins of

Critics are concerned, and rightfully so, that Arafat will likely be replaced by someone just as bad if not worse, or Arafat’s ouster could incite even more reprisals by the Palestinians.

Either reason begs these questions: What kind of society is it that can’t produce someone better than Arafat as a leader? Why would any significant segment of Palestinian society rebel over the removal of a leader who betrayed his own people?

This is a society that engaged in a two-year war which left more than 600 Israelis and 1,800 of their own dead. What havoc would they wreak if they had their own organized entity?

More questions: How can the Palestinian people possibly be prepared for cooperative relations with Israel when many of their children are educated from birth to hate Israel and seek its destruction?

How can they devise an effective legal system when, during a trial of a suspected collaborator, a mob of onlookers rushed the defendant inside the courtroom and murdered him? When another mob broke into a prison and executed a Palestinian who was convicted of collaboration?

If a Palestinian state becomes a reality, will they continue to engage in blood feuds, a centuries-old personal form of vigilante justice?

What will become of honor killings, another centuries-old tradition when women can face execution from their own relatives for violating romantic mores such as having sexual relations outside of marriage, even if raped, or marrying without their father’s consent? Jordan’s Queen Rania, who is Palestinian, has made a priority of ending the honor killings in her country.

While Palestinian children starve, how can young terrorists afford to acquire cell phones?

If Arafat remains, what kind of leader will he prove to be? While his people continue to live in poverty, what did he do with money he received from foreign donors? As he has done on CNN at least twice, will he scream at reporters who dare pose legitimate questions?

Finally, how can Israel trust the Palestinians to end hostilities if a Palestinian state is formed?

Israel should remain open to the prospect of a Palestinian state, but its leaders have a responsibility to the Israeli people to confront their Palestinian counterparts with these questions and expect honest answers before taking any steps toward an independent state.

Contributed by Bruce S. Ticker,