Sat, 27 Sep 2003

Yasser Arafat

In the land of second chances, Yasser Arafat has enjoyed nine lives. Killing him, as some Israeli officials have suggested, would guarantee him martyrdom and certify his role as a permanent thorn in Israel's side as well as a formidable barrier to peace in the Middle East.

For that reason, it was reassuring to hear Israeli officials this week clarify the situation vis-a-vis Arafat. To wit: Killing him is not official Israeli government policy. That's good. But "removing" him - presumably forcing him into exile somehow - may still be an option. Not so good.

The best policy with regard to Arafat is for Israel to continue to try to minimize his control over the Palestinian Authority and thus, to marginalize his control of the Middle East peace process, such as it is these days.

That means keeping him isolated and confined to his nearly demolished West Bank headquarters, where Israeli forces can monitor his actions 24 hours a day. That's far better than an Arafat free to wander the region stirring up anger against Israel and drawing sympathy and support from his position as an exiled Palestinian leader. That's a role he relishes and has always excelled at.

-- The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, New York