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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 15:12 GMT
Israeli papers agonise over Arafat
Smoke rises over Gaza City after Israeli air strikes
The Israeli army has targeted Arafat's headquarters
There is much soul-searching in Israel over how to react to the events of recent days and Israelis remain divided on how to deal with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Ariel Sharon
Mr Sharon said Israel would use all available means to defend itself
According to a poll published on Monday by the largest circulation newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, 37% of those polled want Mr Arafat out of power and the Palestinian Authority dismantled.

But 32% say it is time for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to embark on talks to negotiate a ceasefire.

This division is reflected in the rest of the Israeli press.

No team player

The Jerusalem Post writes that Mr Arafat has been exposed for the fraud he is.

"After 11 September, Arafat quickly donned a homemade jersey with Coalition emblazoned across the front, and hoped no one would notice him sneaking over from the opposing bench to the home team," the right-leaning newspaper says.


The IDF must launch unrestricted strikes against the terrorists concentrated in the territories, and Arafat must pay the price - personally

Maariv

"But he did not bother to do the one and only thing that would have earned an authentic team membership: crack down on terrorism.

"Despite this, Arafat managed, if not to escape the suspicious glances of the coalition coach, to avoid becoming thought of as a member of the opposing team - a target.

"Now Arafat's pretence has been exposed, his fake membership card questioned, and the demand for full anti-terrorist credentials placed at his doorstep," the Jerusalem Post writes.

'He must pay'

A comment piece on Monday in Israel's second largest circulation paper, Maariv, urged unprecedented IDF action and said Mr Arafat had to pay a "personal" toll.

Yasser Arafat
Israelis wonder whether Mr Arafat should remain in power or be removed

"This last series of attacks has darkened the atmosphere and spread the kind of gloom we have not known for many years. Feelings of personal safety have practically disappeared, and people are beset with doubts and fears wherever they go and whatever they do," the paper said.

"Arafat cannot, therefore, escape responsibility or punishment for what is happening. Israel must mount an offensive that will wipe out Palestinian terror. The IDF [Israeli army] must launch unrestricted strikes against the terrorists concentrated in the territories, and Arafat must pay the price - personally."

'Give him a week'

However, an editorial in the same paper on Tuesday says Mr Arafat should be given a grace period.

"There are signs that this elderly leader, who hasn't avoided a single mistake in recent years, is starting to get it, perhaps too late.


Arafat has always been the good cow that fills the pail with milk and then kicks it over

Haaretz

"Arafat should be given the week he is asking for to prove that he is serious this time. Not because he deserves it, but because maybe this time he realises that he hasn't got any manoeuvring room left.

"His fate has been sealed, one way or another. If he plays into the hands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad once again, that will be the end of his rule."

Self-destruct

The liberal daily Haaretz points out Prime Minister Sharon's lack of effective leadership, in remarks reminiscent of comments made by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about Mr Arafat on Monday.

"In the nine months he has been in office, Sharon has taken not even one creative step - has not even made any 'peace noises' - that could provide any hope whatsoever to either Israel or the Palestinians."

But the paper adds that Mr Arafat shares some of the blame.

"It must also be noted that, throughout his career, Arafat has always been the good cow that fills the pail with milk and then kicks it over. Throughout his career, he has brought disaster(s) down upon his own head... They all represent the same road to self-destruction."

See also:

03 Dec 01 | Middle East
US diplomacy put to the test
03 Dec 01 | Media reports
Israeli papers say Arafat at watershed
02 Dec 01 | Middle East
In pictures: Israel blasts
04 Dec 01 | Middle East
Grand Sheikh condemns suicide bombings
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