We explained that even if Arafat does not “squeeze the trigger” himself, he creates a culture of terror, nurtures a regime of armed gangs, guides and encourages murders and riots, and mostly, funds terror. We handed over plenty of information on these issues to the Americans. His lies in denying his involvement in purchasing the Karin A weapon-smuggling ship combined with accurate Israeli intelligence information about his personal role in funding a specific terror attack prompted the US Administration to conclude that as long as Arafat is in place, there will be no peace, security, or calm.
As a result of this, President George W. Bush declared in June 2002 that a different Palestinian leadership was needed, urging the Palestinian people to choose a new leadership that does not accept terror.
The absolute American boycott, the ongoing pressure on European leaders to join it, and Israel’s decision to shun any global visitors who came to meet him combined to remove Arafat from the decisive position of influence he held up until then. Simultaneously, a different, responsible leadership emerged in the PA that succeeded, among other things due to massive global aid, to bring quiet, security, stability, and economic prosperity. All of that would not have happened under Arafat’s rule.
Operation called off
Even though Sharon viewed the termination of Arafat’s active leadership as a vital political and security need, he never permitted to physically harm him. All the rumors that Israel is “responsible” for his death are foolish lies. I recall that at the end of 2003, Israel was discussing a certain military move within Arafat’s offices. Once the army made it clear to Sharon that the site held dozens of gunmen and that Arafat may be hurt in the gunfight, the operation was called off.
Even after Arafat fell ill, Sharon acted decently towards him. In a late-night meeting, during a meeting in Brussels with EU foreign minister Javier Solana, an urgent phone call was received from a senior Palestinian official. Arafat is very sick and must be taken out of Ramallah for medical tests. His office is surrounded by IDF forces. Will Israel permit him to leave?
I phoned Sharon at his home, and he promptly gave his approval. The next day, Solana called again: The doctors believed Arafat’s illness is grave and he must be flown to Europe. Will Israel allow him to depart, and most importantly, to return? I called Sharon from the train en route to London. He asked for some time to weigh the request. He explained that according to the defense establishment, Arafat’s medical condition is not that grave, and added that “we have no interest in him again traveling in Europe and worldwide.”
Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official who maintained good ties with us called, and said that according to the doctors Arafat is about to die. Should this happen in Ramallah, after Israel prevented treatment abroad, he said, “just like for 2,000 years you were trying to explain that you did not crucify Jesus, for the next 2,000 years you will be explaining that you are not responsible for Arafat’s death.”
I phoned Sharon and informed him of this. He sure knew how to make a decision: “Inform Solana that we’ll permit him to leave,” he ruled immediately. This happened, and the rest is history.
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