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January 24, 2003

Can't happen soon enough! Sharon aims to exile Arafat after offensive against Saddam

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is planning to expel Palestinian Authority head Yasser Arafat as soon as the anticipated American attack on Iraq is over, The Report has been told.

Hours after the January 5 double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, Sharon came under pressure at a late night "kitchen cabinet" meeting to eject the Palestinian leader from the West Bank and Gaza forthwith, because of what ministers called Arafat’s deep complicity in ongoing Palestinian terror. Sharon, wary of American wrath, withstood the pressure. But he made it clear he would reconsider immediately after the American offensive against Saddam.

The three ministers at the meeting, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Silvan Shalom all argue that as long as Arafat is in the territories, terror will not stop. Sharon agrees in principle, but sees a problem with the timing, noting that in the run-up to the anticipated attack on Iraq, the Americans are urging maximal restraint, and don’t want Israel to do anything that might inflame the Arab world. But after the American offensive, aides say Sharon expects Washington will allow Israel far more leeway in responding to Palestinian terror, and that would be the time to expel Arafat.

Appearing before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on January 6, Mofaz virtually confirmed the plan, saying that the day Arafat would no longer be around was "getting closer." Defense Ministry sources told The Report that in the coming year Israel aims to engage the Palestinians in serious peace talks, and that, in Mofaz’s view, "can only happen without Arafat."