Arafat dismisses Israeli decision to ''remove'' him
The Israeli security cabinet decided Thursday night that Yasser Arafat is "an absolute obstacle to the process of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians, and Israel will act to remove this obstacle in a manner, at a time and in ways to be decided separately."
The decision came during a meeting of the 11-minister security cabinet, convened by Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to discuss its response to two suicide bombings in a Jerusalem cafe and outside an military base near Tel Aviv on Tuesday, in which 15 people were killed.
Israeli sources said that the security cabinet had also decided to ask the Israeli army to draw up a plan for the expulsion Arafat.
The decision on removing Arafat was made without a vote. The cabinet decided not to elaborate on exactly what Arafat's "removal" would entail, whether it meant the expulsion or the assassination of the Palestinian leader.
During the meeting in Tel Aviv, Sharon called Arafat a "murderer," Haaretz reported.
Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian security official condemned the decision as "stupid," saying that such a step would destabilize the Middle East.
"Harming Arafat or expelling him will destabilize the region and will only bring disaster to the Israeli people," the official said. "Occupation is terrorism and the Israelis have to realize that if they implement this stupid decision then they are committing a crime against their own people and against stability in the region."
Arafat vowed earlier in the day to stay. "No one can kick me out," Arafat said. Asked if he would leave of his own accord, he said, "definitely not."
"This is my homeland. This is terra sancta. No one can kick me out," he told reporters. "They can kill me. They have bombs," he said. Arafat called on the quartet of the United States, Russia, Europe and the United Nations to "move quickly to protect peace and the road map" peace plan.
Later, Arafat triumphantly emerged from his office building and flashed a victory sign to thousands of supporters who came to the Muqata compund in a show of support for the Palestinian leader.
"We are in a sacred land, and we will protect our holy Christian and Muslim places. We send a message to the detainees, and to the prisoners, together all the way to Jerusalem," Arafat said.
Arafat also recited a passage from the Koran about being steadfast in the face of the oppressor.
"The leader is Abu Ammar," the crowd chanted, referring to Arafat by his nom de guerre.
The crowd chanted, "Are you afraid of tanks?" And others answered: "No." "Are you afraid of (Israeli Premier) Sharon? No."
Thousands more held demonstrations in the Balata refugee camp, Jenin, Tulkarem and Khan Younis, in support of the Palestinian president. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)