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Israeli/Palestinian conflict: Sharon's Assassination Inc.
"HIS EXPULSION is an option, his liquidation is another option. It is also possible to confine him to prison-like conditions."
Israeli deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert
This is Israeli deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert's, view on the future of Palestinian president Yasser Arafat. In the last few months Israeli media reports say Israeli commandos have been training to kidnap him from his battered compound in Ramallah.
The head of the Shin Bet (the Israeli secret police), Avi Dichter, apparently prefers the quick option of assassination.
However, Israel's principal weapons and financial backer, the US, was feeling queasy at the prospect of Arafat's assassination. Even though the Bush administration refuses to discuss with the beleaguered Palestinian president, secretary of state Colin Powell described Israel's security cabinet's decision to remove ("in principle") Arafat as "unhelpful" and "counter-productive" in terms of restarting the road map peace process.
Powell is well aware that exile or assassination by Israel would enrage opinion throughout the Arab and Muslim world and further undermine the US attempts to pacify post-Saddam Iraq and also to get tough with the clerical regime in Iran.
The threat to Arafat will boost his waning political authority amongst the Palestinian masses and lessen still further the possibility of another ceasefire being agreed by the Palestinian militias of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
The latter (which is part of the Arafat's Fatah faction within the Palestine Liberation Organisation) has warned the Israeli government of swift and devastating retaliation if Arafat is removed.
Arafat, although he defeated the US and Israeli approved Palestinian prime minister Abu Mazen in a recent power struggle, is seen by many Palestinians as part of the wealthy ruling elite who has failed to deliver Palestinian self-determination.
Only last week Arafat reportedly stormed out of a meeting with his interior minister who described Arafat as "the most incompetent revolutionary leader in history".
The US will probably apply sufficient pressure to stop Israel getting rid of Arafat but in return they will allow further deadly attacks on Palestinian militia leaders as well as more repression in the Israeli army occupied Palestinian. areas.
However, the Israeli government's statement has alarmed liberal and left wing opinion in Israel. Inevitably, increased Israeli Defence Force repression and targeted assassinations will result in retaliatory Palestinian suicide bombings within Israel.
In the meantime, the Israeli working class - already suffering the longest recession in the country's history and neo-liberal policies attacks on jobs and welfare payments - can expect even more cuts in next year's budget.
The draft 2004 budget calls for a 10 billion shekels (£1.38 billion) cuts - including even the vast defence budget.
In The Socialist 20 September 2003: