Arafat: Israeli Aggression Killed Roadmap
Arafat: Israeli Aggression Killed ‘Roadmap’ and US Let it Die
Washington Seeks Israeli Clarifications on Mofaz’s Remarks
President Yasser Arafat told CNN Tuesday that the United States let the “roadmap” for peace and a Palestinian state die and the plan was dead only because of Israeli aggression, which has escalated militarily and politically with Israel’s renewed calls for “expulsion” of the veteran Palestinian leader, a development that Washington has so far rejected and on Tuesday was reportedly seeking clarifications from Tel Aviv.
"The road map is dead, but only because of Israeli military aggression in recent weeks," Arafat said, according to CNN’s website.
Arafat also told CNN that the United States had let the plan die.
The interview took place off camera in the Israeli-reoccupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
The roadmap was drafted and adopted by US, UN, EU and Russia.
Arafat told CNN that US preoccupation with Iraq and upcoming presidential elections got in the way of assuring implementation of the “roadmap.”
Meanwhile, the US Administration is reportedly seeking clarifications from Tel Aviv on whether the Israeli “Defense” Minister Shaul Mofaz’s call on Tuesday for the expulsion of Arafat from Occupied Palestinian Territory was a personal or an official statement.
Yasser Arafat must "disappear from the stage of history," Mofaz said Tuesday, adding that the Palestinian leader’s fate - most likely expulsion - may be decided before the end of the year.
Mofaz said he favors expelling Arafat, but that the timing has to be right. "I believe that Israel made a historic mistake by not exiling him two years ago," he said.
"With regard to the future, I think we will be compelled to deal with this issue within a relatively short period of time, very possibly even this year," the minister said.
It was not clear whether he referred to the Western calendar or the Jewish year, which ends on Sept. 26.
Arafat has been effectively confined to his headquarters in Ramallah by the Israeli army for the past 20 months.
According to Israeli media reports, the majority of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s cabinet is in favor of expelling Arafat, but the security services have warned that he could have more of a “capacity for nuisance” in exile.
Israel’s cabinet has repeatedly considered
expelling Arafat, but Sharon has blocked such a move, in
part because of opposition by the United States.
In a briefing to reporters on Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that “We had been informed by the Israeli Government that they had no plans to do that (to expel Arafat)” adding, “Our view on that has not changed.”
However, privately, US State Department officials sought clarification from Israel over its “defense” minister’s threat to expel Arafat.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP they wanted to know whether Mofaz had been speaking personally or was reflecting the view of Sharon’s government when he made the threat.
Boucher said the last time a senior US official spoke to Arafat was prior to June 24th of 2002.
The last meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell was in April of 2002 when Powell said to him, "This may be the last time we ever talk. It may be the last time I ever see you," Boucher said.
Asked whether the US was seeking clarification from the Israelis he said, “I don't really have anything new at this point on that. We'll see what the Israelis say.”
Palestinian Cabinet Minister Ghassan Khatib downplayed Mofaz’s threat and said it only raised tensions, "but is consistent with the spirit of escalation of the Israeli leadership."
The expulsion issue aside, the United States in recent weeks has ramped up pressure on Arafat.
Boucher on Tuesday repeated US demands from Arafat.
Arafat "needs to cooperate with the new (Palestinian) government (of Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas), he needs to turn over security services that have remained under his control to the control of the new government so that they can be real and effective action against terrorist groups by the Palestinian government," he said.
"Chairman Arafat needs to do that, and everybody who talks to him needs to call on him to do so."
Last year, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) tanks and armored vehicles twice rolled into Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah and bulldozed and shelled the compound, leaving him holed up in the rubble. The attacks were intended to isolate the Palestinian leader that he would be forced into exile.
When his sister died a few weeks ago, he couldn’t get out to attend her funeral in Gaza.
But while Arafat remains a virtual prisoner, he seems as powerful as ever.
More than a year after the Bush administration declared that it would have nothing to do with him, and more than three months after the Palestinian parliament named a new prime minister to take his place in peace negotiations with the Israelis, Palestinians are reasserting his authority as the elected leader of the Palestinian people and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which is the sole representative of the Palestinian people, the official peace partner to the Jewish state and the signatory to all accords signed with it.
''As long as Arafat is alive, he will be esteemed by Palestinians as their true leader and the father of their country,'' Yossi Alpher, an Israeli strategic analyst and former senior adviser to former prime minister Ehud Barak, who was defeated by Ariel Sharon in 2001, told the USA Today.
''It was a mistake to assume you could leave him alive and well and functioning and manage to insinuate'' a replacement leader, Alpher said.
Nonetheless, Israeli and US officials decided to work around him.
When President Bush came to a Middle East summit in Aqaba, Jordan, in June, Abbas attended as the representative of the Palestinians. Arafat remained at his compound, where he has been essentially under house arrest since December 2001.
But Bush's key mistake, said West Bank security chief Jibril Rajoub, was ''to accept Sharon's view that Arafat was irrelevant or could be made irrelevant. . . Arafat is the only one who can make peace with the Israelis.''
Some veterans of the conflict agree.
refusing to deal with the Palestinian leader, the Bush
administration has given Arafat no incentive to help the
peace process, said Edward Abington, a former US diplomat
who now advises the Palestine National Authority (PNA).