| A Palestinian girl shouts during a rally in Ramallah. (Reuters)
Ramallah, Sept. 13 (Reuters): A defiant Palestinian President Yasser Arafat today condemned an Israeli threat to exile him as a bid to eradicate Palestinian independence, and appealed for international intervention.
Israel cited self-defence as justification for Thursday’s security cabinet decision to “remove” Arafat after two suicide bombings, the latest surge of violence in a three-year-old Palestinian uprising in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“The danger here concerns Israel’s determination to cancel the Palestinian partner and the Palestinian Authority,” Arafat told visiting diplomats at his Ramallah headquarters in remarks on the 10th anniversary of the Oslo interim accords that granted Palestinians limited self-rule.
Arafat said he was still committed to the latest peace drive, a US-backed “road map” to Palestinian statehood: “All this requires the international community to put pressure on Israel to stop its policy.”
With US backing, Israel blames Arafat for fomenting militant violence — a charge he denies. But Washington does not want the 74-year-old ex-guerrilla leader exiled, fearing this would finish off the already tattered road map.The UN Security Council yesterday’s echoed US concerns.
Reeling from scores of suicide bombings and other attacks in the revolt that erupted in September 2000, Israel stood firm.
“No country would allow others to dictate how its should protect its citizens,” said Raanan Gissin, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. “Arafat is a terrorist leader. We have no war with the Palestinian people and their aspirations.”
Israeli special forces are set to pluck Arafat from his headquarters, where blockades have kept him largely confined for the past 21 months, and take him to an unspecified point abroad.
The security cabinet decision appeared to leave open the option of killing Arafat. But Israeli newspapers said Sharon had shot down suggestions by defence minister Shaul Mofaz to do so.
Palestinians throughout the territories rallied in Arafat’s support and pledged to defend him with their lives.