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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

May 25, 2003

Jews are the victims. Abbas is the target

This National Post article is another confirmation for those who believe that Arafat must be removed, that he is in cahoots with terrorist groups, and that at this point there is nothing to lose by exiling him
The clear message of the suicide bombers who struck Israel this past week is that there will be no deal on Israeli-Palestinian peace without Yasser Arafat's participation. Israel and the United States have tried to push Mr. Arafat into irrelevance, and prefer to deal directly with newly appointed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. But Arafat, the PA Chairman, has retained control of much of the Palestinian security apparatus. And as the power struggle between Arafat and Abbas develops, there is increasing evidence that the radical Islamic group Hamas and elements of Arafat's own Fatah movement are co-ordinating their attacks on Israel. Indeed, the funding and infrastructure of the radical secular and Islamic groups appears not to be as separate as was previously presumed.

Once sworn enemies, Arafat and Hamas have found common ground as they both struggle to remain relevant in Palestinian society. While Arafat has been weakened by his international isolation, Hamas is threatened both by Israel's assassination of its key leaders, and by George W. Bush's war on terror, which has reduced the flow of funding from wealthy Saudi donors.

As the lines of Palestinian politics are redrawn, both Arafat and Hamas need to remind the world that they still command popular support among key segments of the Palestinian population. Thus, though both groups say they are fighting for a Palestinian state, they will both do everything in their power to prevent Mahmoud Abbas from securing one.

The Israeli government is aware of these developments. In recent weeks, the Israeli army's deployments in the West Bank have taken on a more permanent look. Bases once thought temporary are being reinforced, as are supply and communication channels. Hebrew road signs torn down when the army left back in the mid-1990s are slowly starting to reappear. The very unsubtle message that the Israeli government is sending Arafat and the Palestinian leadership is that it will not allow anarchy to break out in the West Bank.

The major debate within Israeli security and political circles, however, has centred on the question of Arafat's future. Given his new strategy -- which amounts to a declaration of war on Israel -- should he be sent into exile, left to roam the West Bank or placed under what would effectively be house arrest in Ramallah? There appears little appetite in Israel at this stage to put him on trial in Jerusalem -- although with the increasingly transparent linkage between himself and the bombers, this policy may change.[more]