Jerusalem, Sept. 11 (Reuters): Israel’s security cabinet agreed in principle today that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat should be exiled but opted against any move to expel him immediately, sources close to the government said.
One source said the security cabinet decided to ask the army to prepare a plan for Arafat’s exile from the region but decided against swift expulsion because of US opposition.
A senior Palestinian official denounced Israel’s decision, saying exiling Arafat would destabilise West Asia. The security cabinet, which groups top government ministers and security officials under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, met to discuss how to respond to two Palestinian suicide bombings which killed 15 people in Israel on Tuesday.
“The security cabinet agreed in principle to expel Arafat but not to do anything immediately. They asked the army to prepare a plan for expelling him,” one source close to the government said.
“This means they decided in principle that he can be expelled but they will not do anything at the moment because of US opposition.”
Israel and the US accuse Arafat of fomenting violence in a three-year-old Palestinian revolt against Israeli occupation. He denies the charge but Israel has confined him to his West Bank headquarters for most of the last 21 months.
A senior Palestinian security official condemned Israel’s decision in principle today to exile Arafat, saying such a move would destabilise West Asia.
“Harming Arafat or expelling him will destabilise the region and will only bring disaster to the Israeli people,” the official said.
“Occupation is terrorism and the Israelis have to realise that if they implement this stupid decision then they are committing a crime against their own people and against stability in the region.”
The United States said today the expulsion of Arafat from the Palestinian territories would be unhelpful because it would give him a new stage on which to perform. “We don’t believe that dealing with Arafat... through expulsion is going to be helpful at all with the situation,” state department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
“I don’t think there’s any purpose in doing it right now. What purpose would it serve' To give him a broader stage to operate from outside of the region'” US secretary of state Powell told ABC television.