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Keep The Martyr Waiting
sraeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has gone back
to threatening to kill Palestinian leader Yasser
Arafat. It is a singularly bad step in what has been
an otherwise successful effort to stem Palestinian ter-
rorism by assassinating or capturing the most violent
Murdering Arafat would be a mistake, both as a
matter of policy and as an issue of public relations.
And while it might be emotionally satisfying to be rid
at last of this crook and terrorist, it would be wrong as
a matter of justice and morality.
Meeting with President George W. Bush earlier this
month, Sharon said that he was "released from that
pledge" he made three years ago not to harm Arafat
physically. But it is not clear that he means
the threat as anything more than a tactic to
rally right-Wing support to his plan to with-
draw from the Gaza settlements. Sharon
associates were quick to explain that he wasn't planning
any immediate assault on the Palestinian leader, whom
he has kept holed up in his Mukata headquarters in
Ramallah for most of the current intzfada (uprisin
Still, making the threat was an unneeded reminder
of Israel's ability to get rid of Arafat just as it had suc-
cessfully targeted Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin
and his successor, Abdel. Aziz Rantissi. The Palestinians
are well aware of what Sharon can do; there was no
need to rub their noses in it.
The policy issue is quite clear. Assassination would
make Arafat a martyr; keeping him effectively in his
own prison makes him look pathetic. The former
would let the Arab nations continue to focus on Israel's
"occupation" and "villainy;" keeping him alive allows
Israel to continue to point out how corrupt, ineffective
and weak his regime really is. What better than to have
him expel the 21 Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades members
from the Mukata, as he did last week, out of fear that
he could get killed if the IDF raided the place to cap-
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isRA6 S ARE
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ture those bad guys.
The long-range policy is to get a
meaningful peace. Arafat isn't the
man to negotiate it, but it will help if
he is around to endorse it. Killing
him ends that possibility. And since
he has no clear successor, his death
would likely stir more internal strife,
postponing any real resolution
between the Palestinians and Israelis
and possibly giving more power to
the most fanatic of the terrorist
Israel doesn't need any more bad
publicity with the outside
world. Killing Arafat now
would be as disastrous in
international relations as it
would be for America to kill Saddam
Hussein now that he has been driven
from power and captured. Too many
nations are willing to accept the
Muslim description of Israel as sav-
age oppressors. There is no need to
add to that impression.
Ultimately, a cold-blooded slaying
would be immoral, contravening
what Israel should stand for as a
model to the rest of the world.
There will be time, let us hope, to
put Arafat on trial for terrorism, to
strip him of his power and to force
him to concede what he has stolen
from the Palestinians during his dic-
tatorship. That will be punishment enough. It will be
better by far to let him die of natural causes, disgraced
by his . failures.
Arafat has described himself as a "martyr-in-wait-
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ing," telling an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset
that "I am fated to die as a shaheed. "That's too
good a fate for him.
For ultimate justice, Arafat's blood should not be
on Sharon's hands. ❑
Tasting My Israeli Service
t was delicious (yes, delicious — I could taste
the joy and satisfaction) to sit at a workbench
at an army base in Israel and repair communi-
cation equipment for soldiers in the field.
My wife, Vivian, and I joined a Sar-El volunteer
program that enabled us to live and work at a base
near Ramle for the last two weeks of February. Our
work was easy but important, one of a few jobs for
volunteers directly serving the troops. We repaired
the headphones worn in soldiers' helmets to com-
municate with each other as they patrol Gaza and
Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
My wife worked at one stage of the repair, I at
another, among nine or 10 volunteers and under the
supervision of three young female soldiers. Two of
Albert Best of Farmington Hills is a retired lawyer
and former newspaperman. He and Vivian have been
married for 56 years and have three children.
Our base, known as Batzap 382, was
the lovely young women had come to Israel
located inside and at the rear of base named
as children from the Soviet Union; the third
Pikud HaOref, standing for Home Front
came from North Africa. They had been in
Command. Batzap's function is repairing
the army less than a year.
and distributing electronic and transmission
We were part of a group that included vol-
devices to the troops in Judea and Samaria.
unteers, almost half of them non-Jewish;
More than 30 percent of Batzap's vital work
from Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Montana,
is performed by volunteers, a method that
Texas, Canada; two from South Africa; three
provides substantial savings over having to
from the Netherlands, Ireland and Norway.
provide new equipment if the higher cost is
Ages ranged from an 18-year-old woman to
not essential for an efficient IDF.
us in our late 70s.
Sar-El, derived from the Hebrew for
Virtually every week, a new group from
Service for Israel, was founded in 1983 as a
several nations arrives at Israel's Ben-Gurion
nonprofit, non-political organization. It
Airport. Travel arrangements are made and
resulted from an agricultural crisis in the Golan
paid for by the volunteers. Sar-Elniks serve at sever-
Heights when settlers were called into Army reserve
al bases and perform many services.
service and crops were in danger of rotting. Israelis
A Sar-El representative was at Ben-Gurion Airport
recruited 650 volunteers from the United States to
to brief us and provide Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
save the crops. Sar-El came about from the sugges-
protection and transportation to our base, the loca-
tion of which was not made known to us until then.
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