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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 09:01 GMT
Middle East: Is Arafat still relevant?
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is not in "effective control" according to US Vice-president, Dick Cheney.

His comments came after a Palestinian bomb attack in Jerusalem - the third suicide bombing in a week, and the first one ever carried out by a woman.

Israel had already decided to break off all contact with Arafat, accusing him of doing too little to stop terrorism.

Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said: "Arafat is responsible since he encourages terrorists to commit suicide acts."

On Friday, Israeli F-16s bombed Palestinian security positions in retaliation for an earlier suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.

Palestinian officials are now vacating buildings in anticipation of an Israeli response to Sunday's attack.

Do you think Yasser Arafat should still be a leading player? Are the bombings further evidence that the peace process is finally dead? Is the Israeli government right to break off ties with the Palestinian leader?

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

Too many have decided to take matters into their own hands.

Russ, USA
Arafat is not in control of the Palestinian¿s fate anymore. Too many have decided to take matters into their own hands. Both Jews and Arabs are responsible for their fate. At this point in time, it doesn't matter what started it. Who really wants to stop it is the real answer. Arafat seem like he doesn't have control of anything these days.
Russ, USA

Arafat is obviously still relevant according to the people he governs. Do you see the Palestinians protesting against his house arrest outside his headquarters? I know there are questions about his ability to deal with political issues, but if the Palestinians, including some of the militant resistance groups, didn't want Arafat as their leader, he would have been gone a long time ago. The rest of the world, especially USA and Israel, has no rights to render him irrelevant.
Akemi, USA

I am convinced the phrase "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" was conceived with Chairman Arafat in mind. Where is the Palestinian Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, or Mahatma Gandhi? How does blowing up people in a pizza parlour or commuter bus advance the idea of Palestinian statehood? How can it be equated with the targeted killing of those who plan the terror bombings?

The Palestinian cause is a just one. The Israelis will have to remove the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza for there to ever be real peace. Unfortunately, for the Palestinian people, their leadership has never been able to avoid enacting (or condoning)acts of terrorism which obscure (at least in the eyes of people here in the US) the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people.
Kevin, USA

What is good for the goose is good for the gander? Israel has a powerful army, Palestine is punished for importing arms! Israel selects Palestinians and goes in 'for the kill', Palestinian "suicide bombers" are stigmatised as "terrorists"! Israel occupies stolen land and has no intention of giving it up. Palestinians are denied access to Israel! The USA is too biased in favour of Israel (the Jewish and arms lobby) and therefore an unsuitable negotiator in the conflict - it has to get out. The USA presence worsens this conflict and with that endangers the peace of the world. Israel and the USA are doing everything to humiliate Arafat to make sure that the promised Palestinian State doesn't come about. Arafat is held prisoner in his own house/land! Who do they think they are to deny Arafat the right to travel to Belgium and by cutting off his means of governing?
Joanna Aarts, Amsterdam Holland

Arafat became irrelevant the moment he dropped his Oslo/Camp David commitment to abandon violence

Lev, USA
The purpose of any government is to maintain law and order within its borders, and to formulate and conduct a responsible foreign policy. Arafat does neither - he is "unable or unwilling" to exercise control over his territories. His acquiescence to the criminal activity emanating from the territories he controls makes him, as far as Israel is concerned, irrelevant at the best - and criminal at the worst. Israelis should have made a decision to sideline him and take control of the security situation long ago. Arafat became irrelevant the moment he dropped his Oslo/Camp David commitment to abandon violence, and started the "intifada". After Arafat released hundreds of criminals from his jails so they could terrorize Israelis, and broke 7 or 8 ceasefires brokered by the Americans, we've learned enough "Arafatic" to conclude: in his vocabulary, a "promise" is only a "fools hope". So, as far as Israelis are concerned, he has been irrelevant for the last 15 months. As far as Palestinian individuals are concerned, Arafat had always been irrelevant - witness his corrupt, dictatorial, cruel regime which gave an ordinary Palestinian nothing except for a chance to sacrifice his life for a myth of a "Palestinian people". Arafat is relevant only as far as that mythical artificiality is concerned - but for any normal, living and breathing individual, who does not care for ideologies and labels and is unwilling to sacrifice his life for a mere abstraction, this justification for Arafat's political existence is in itself irrelevant.
Lev, USA

Yasser Arafat is still the only person to talk to. Both USA & Israel are wrong to break off ties with him. USA is totally one sided, and will blindly support Israel thereby making her more arrogant.
T. N. Soni, Canada

I think that Sharon is using the suicide bombings as an excuse to invade Palestine and destroy things. How can he say that Yasser Arafat is not doing anything when he is locked in a building? How could he do anything?. I think it's not the Palestinians that are the terrorists in this. The Israelis think its alright for their tanks to be in Palestine but when Palestinians fight back all of the sudden they are seen by the world as terrorists
sk8_4_life, Canada

Time and again the Palestinians have turned down the two-state solution and chosen war over peace. Unfortunately, they have managed to lose time and again, and still have yet to see the error of their violent ways. Their actions have demonstrated that they are not interested in peace, so what else is there to say?
Abuyah, USA

Arafat is an important symbolic figure.

Anna Schlusser, Australia
The UN should support a disarmament process on both sides. I think Arafat is being sidelined by Sharon and his American supporters. Arafat is an important symbolic figure. Community leaders from Israel and Palestine need to be removed from the immediate conflict and educated to get on with each other by negotiation instead of violence.
Anna Schlusser, Australia

The whole situation in the Middle East is going out of control. The Palestinians are convinced that they have no option but to fight with the weapons they have & hope to wear down the Israelis. It is almost out of Arafat's hands as the Palestinians are so enflamed that any real effort to arrest militants is probably doomed. Sharon is unrealistic to expect total calm & sooner or later must accept a sovereign Palestinian state. He will have to accept removing most of the settlers from the west bank as all countries see them as illegal occupiers. The Israelis are as much to blame as anyone & the US, by being Israel's best ally must also accept it's blame, most of the weapons the Israelis use are "made in the USA". Not that the militant loonies in Hamas etc aren't nasty. If they want to target Israel & fight back they should limit their attacks to military-industrial targets as the allies did in W.W.II An all-out Israeli attack would also stop the militants but would destroy any support for them even in the US.
MIKE, Canada

I find it terribly ironic that the U.S. and Israel claim Arafat is no longer effective. How can Arafat be effective when his power is continuously undermined by the Israeli and U.S. governments who have literally tied his hands? Arafat has been imprisoned by Israeli forces for weeks. The U.S. media is so pathetically biased and influenced by ties to Israel that it is subtly brainwashing Americans into believing that Palestine is the aggressor and Israel the innocent. I am forced to seek ought foreign news sources in order to hear the truth. The boundaries should be drawn in accordance with those established in 1948. All Israeli forces should be withdrawn from Palestinian territories and the illegal Jewish settlements should be vacated and the land returned to the rightful owners, the Palestinians. The world cannot afford to stand by and allow this apartheid to continue.
Lesley Wright, USA

I think although Arafat is by no means an angel, he has probably kept things calmer than they would otherwise have been. Lets face it, who takes over if he goes? Probably extremists. He did arrest some of the suspects Israel wanted detained, but Israel went ahead and invaded the West Bank anyway. They jumped on the bandwagon of the current climate, claiming terrorism, and we are doing what the Americans did. Yes, the suicide bombing etc is wrong, but more is made of this as it happens in nice shopping centres, rather than small children shot dead by soldiers for throwing a stone at a tank in a dusty dishevelled back street.

At the end of the day, Arafat at least wanted peace more than Sharon, who just wants to invade and steal more land.
Shane Woodhouse, United Kingdom

Nobody has the right to change the Palestinian leader

Samer Sarhan, Palestine
Nobody has the right to change the Palestinian leader - only the Palestinian people. The Israeli occupation and the American government do not have the right to change any leader that his people elect. The Israeli government has to stop its structural terrorism and violence against the Palestinian people. And the Americans should be neutral in their mediation process - not running after their own interests in the region and not caring about the daily killing of people.
Samer Sarhan, Palestine

Sharon is the irreleveant or ignominous party here. Arafat is paralized by the military onslaught, the asasinations, the imprisonment of the civilian population, all of which are due to the present head of government of the occupying forces. Removing Arafat is perhaps now an option for Sharon, but it will offer only two outcomes - continued war and ethnic cleansing.
Philippe, UK

Justice can stop the violence. The UN, minus Israel, all Islamic states and the US, should play the role of judge. It is high time the UN and Kofi Annan proved that they are really worthy of the Nobel peace prize.
Harish, Indian in USA

Harish: The Nobel Prize nowadays is a joke. Do not worry too much about it. The fact is that Arafat is not honest with his own people - he is playing dirty politics at the expense of innocent Palestinians.
Shan Mylvaganam, UK

Arafat is relevant for 40 years of terror and death of innocent people. He is very relevant and responsible for 40 years for Palestinian suffering. Arafat is extremely relevant for 40 year of despair, hopelessness, poverty, and destruction. Is Arafat relevant for peace, stability, prosperity and reconciliation? - Not at all. Never was.
Michael Pasternak Hong Kong

It seems to me that Chairman Arafat's refusal to accept the Clinton deal, which enshrined a two-state solution, was a missed opportunity of historic import. Moreover, it appears to be part of a pattern of Mr. Arafat's leadership: the failure to act decisively. Or, does his refusal to agree to the Clinton deal reveal the fundamental principle of Arafat's politics that Israel should not exist? Regardless of whatever Mr. Arafat has claimed, his actions belie his words. Since the Clinton deal failed, both sides have suffered mindlessly.
James Reibman, USA

The time is past for bombings and overt attacks.

Greg Keif, US
Arafat is not irrelevant but he is a total failure. The time is past for bombings and overt attacks. Only thru peaceful and non-violent protest will there be peace and a Palestinian state. Until he can express to his people that each bomb attack against Israelis makes their position in the world weaker not stronger he is a failure. There is only one country that can force Israel to implement the UN resolutions and that is the US. That won't happen while terrorist attacks are ongoing.
Greg Keif, US

Mr Arafat, it seems to me, is the only leader that the Palestinians have that is recognised by all parties. However, his past connections with terrorism are a hindrance. Israel has a long memory and does not forget past transgressions. The only other possible leader for Palestinian aspirations for nationhood and peace is a woman, but can a male dominated society such as theirs accept such a leader?
Raphael, Australia

Shouldn't the questions read not "is Arafat still relevant?" or "Is Arafat doing enough?" but instead "Is it reasonable to expect Arafat to provide security for a country which, for all its military might, cannot do so for itself?" I am fed up seeing Arafat blamed for not providing something that America and Israel cannot offer for itself - while at the same time letting people die. Sharon promised security for his people - but things have rarely been this bad for Israel in the last 54 years. Palestinan Authority buildings are destroyed on a regular basis but are still expected to perform. Does this not strike anyone as contradictory? Maybe it's time to help chairman Arafat reach peace, not destroy him then accuse him of being unable (or unwilling as some report) to provide.
Patrick, Belgium

Israel cannot pick and choose whom they negotiate with. When Sharon declares the legitimate leader of the Palestinians irrelevant, he also declares the hopes and aspirations of a people irrelevant. I assume he wants to rule the occupied territories directly, or with the help of local "pragmatic Palestinians" - quislings by any other name. And just how far will the US support his aims?
Karl, Australia

It simply isn't possible for two states to exist in this area

Simon O'Brien, UK
The problem with the Middle East is that there is no effective end game. It simply isn't possible for two states to exist in this area, competing for extremely limited resources. Without massive US/Western aid Israel itself would not be viable, certainly not in the way it is now. Furthermore the idea that any Israeli leader would ever permit the Palestinians to establish rival businesses in their country to compete with Israeli ones is ludicrous. As Edward Said says the only viable solution, as much as there is one at all, is to abolish the Israeli theocracy and form one country out of both peoples.
Simon O'Brien, UK

Arafat will cease to be relevant when the Palestinian people say he is. Not a moment sooner, not a moment later. Sharon's attempts to isolate and humiliate him have merely increased his relevance.
Andrew Moffatt-Vallance, Christchurch, New Zealand

Sharon is quite simply not looking for negotiation with the Palestinian authority - that has never been his style. The suicide bomb atrocities committed recently have simply hardened his resolve. For the current crisis, he is the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. The peace process really died with Yitzak Rabin, and until another leader of his courage comes along, a negotiated settlement is not on the cards. However, one thing that would help would be for the US to change its policy of blanket support for whatever action the Israeli government sees fit. There have been atrocities committed on both sides in recent years - America has to realise that Israel are no longer automatically the good guys.
Marcus, England

Arafat makes statements of convenience, but never shows any inclination of really coming to a political settlement with Israel, or to putting every effort into urging the Palestinians to live in peace with Israel. He is not and was never relevant to a peace process!
Levi, USA

Israel has been left with no choice but to refuse to negotiate with a documented leader of terrorism.

Miki Tal, USA
Israel has been left with no choice but to refuse to negotiate with a documented leader of terrorism. There is a crucial distinction between fighting to defend a nation and the deliberate suicide attacks on Israeli civilians.
Miki Tal, USA

I think if Arafat can't stop the attacks on innocents, what's the purpose of having Arafat around? He, and Palestine, and certain other non-state, non-terrorist actors, i.e. the Dalai Lama, should be given seats at the United Nations, and a political solution to their respective problems should be constructed.
Peter Bolton, UK/US

Mr Arafat is irrelevant to the process if he cannot offer his own people anything. His call to stop bombings in Israel needs to be matched by Israel stopping the killing of Palestinians (including assassinations) and the halting of building in the occupied territories. So far Israel appears to want to escalate the situation in order to further undermine Mr Arafat's position.
Steve, UK

Violence begets violence. Israel's excessive, brutal and disproportionate use of military force only serves to fuel further violence. I am saddened and distressed that the United Nations Security Council Resolution to establish an international monitoring team to protect the Palestinian people and halt the escalating violence was vetoed by the U.S.
K. Russo, USA

I wonder what would happen if Arafat said, "I quit!"
Rida Mirza, Canada

All UN resolutions regarding the Middle East should be implemented immediately. Who should implement them? The USA.
Sam Omar, USA

A helpful idea might be to stop supplying weapons to Israel or the Arab powers concerned altogether

Jack Roper, UK
A helpful idea might be to stop supplying weapons to Israel or the Arab powers concerned altogether. First World countries contribute a lot to atrocities and the oppressive oligarchies that perpetrate them (the Indonesian Government with its British-made guns, for example) by engaging in the arms trade with them. Let that stop first.
Jack Roper, UK

Israel is trying to eliminate in more than one way the Nobel Peace Prize holding leader of a people it is oppressing. Arafat is by far a better negotiating partner than Hamas are. For how long will innocent Israelis have to pay for the unwise actions of their governments?
Andreas, Greece

Israel's decision to break off ties with Arafat is the same response any country would give after 14 months of ongoing attacks, violence and terrorism. Legitimate governments don't negotiate with terrorists. Would the US or the UK cut a deal with Osama Bin Laden?
Anna Ruben, USA

At the moment both the PLA and Israel are demonstrating brinkmanship. At the end of the day Israel and the PLA will have to talk. It might take a war and international pressure though to make them. Israel will probably need to abandon the West Bank and Gaza in the process but at least the security they crave will be easier to implement where there are clear boundaries between Israel and a Palestinian state.
Peter Davies, Sydney, Australia

Peace will be easier when there is a level playing field.

Derek, UK
Peace will be easier when there is a level playing field. There should be a weapons embargo on all sides, and the major military powers of the world should use pressure (military or otherwise) to enforce all UN resolutions referring to the area.
Derek, UK

Ordinary people, journalists, politicians and leaders always seem to ask for solutions to the middle-east problem. I thought that the solution was already enshrined in the dust-covered manuscripts of the UN resolutions! Didn't these resolutions ordain the right of Israel to exist within its fixed boundaries? Didn't these resolutions also, in the same vein, stipulate an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories? As far as I can recall, the Palestinians dropped the destruction of Israel from their national charter. So, why cannot Israel reciprocate and do the honest needful? If we could evict Iraq out of Kuwait within 6 months, what is keeping us from doing the same to Israel?

Come now people, let's be fair. Till we, the world community at large, allow these callous inequalities to persist and continue with the double standards, there will never be an end to such rhetorical questions. Till then we can only, from the reprehensible comfort of our daily life, continue to miraculously expect the bloodshed to end.
Dr. F Sanai, USA

What a tragedy ! It seems that the only way for peace would be that one side would back off, but neither Sharon nor Arafat will do that, because they will look weak. The solution would be new leaders on both sides, so that neither would feel that they lost face. It is of utmost importance to get two leaders with commitment and vision for true peace, and the support of their own people. What kind of life is this - where the population on both sides have to live with daily fear of terrorism!
S. Samii, New York, USA

The tragedy of the Middle East conflict is that it is so hard to sympathize with either side any more.

The tragedy of the Middle East conflict is that it is so hard to sympathize with either side any more. The Israeli government is a harsh theocracy that subjugates, persecutes, and brutalizes its own citizenry, is deaf to international condemnation, and wholly without common decency. The Palestinian militants, on the other hand, are violent thugs, wholly without any common sense. For fifty years now they have been rock-throwing and suicide bombing to no avail, but it doesn't seem to occur to them that maybe that doesn't exactly curry too much favour with the rest of the world. Or that maybe after five decades of a losing strategy, they might want to put their heads together and come up with a new idea.

The honest truth is that neither side deserves to triumph in this conflict. Neither of them have proved themselves worthy - or capable - of establishing or maintaining a viable country where ordinary people can simply live, go about their business, and enjoy a normal, fulfilling life. I see no hope for that region. Neither side would know what to do with peace if they had it, and it's a shame that ordinary people have to be terrorized and slaughtered for the sake of an unwinnable war that may never end.

The only way to reach a solution is at the negotiating table. Israel must respect Palestinian territories and stop settlements. They must stop their terrorist attacks. Breaking ties will only serve to increase tension.
J Harris, UK

I think both Arafat and Sharon are to blame for the recent bloodshed, and the international community should put pressure on both of them not to take the region to an unknown future for the simple reason of trying to settle their old score
Samir Saka, UK

To openly admit that you are not talking to your opponent is to openly promote aggression

Ed Vista, UK
Communication is vital to solving conflict and involves talking to people on the opposing side, with different opinions and aims. To openly admit that you are not talking to your opponent is to openly promote aggression and is beyond the bounds of self-defence. Sit down and talk. Talk for 24 hours a day if you have to, but do it until you resolve your differences, otherwise you will not only destroy your opponent, but yourselves.
Ed Vista, UK

I think that Arafat is the most affordable Palestinian leader at the time. And when it comes to stopping violence, the Israeli forces should pay more respect in confiscating all war material in the area, creating stability through disarming, not killing. Killing of Palestinians tends to lead to more violence as it seems.
J. Armfelt, Finland

There is no difference between the occupation of Palestine and apartheid South Africa. The U.N should just stand up and apply international law against the brutal government of Ariel Sharon. The European Union should meet and apply both economic and political sanctions against this dictatorship. The U.S appear to owe the Israelis something that we do not know. Let us forget about them and go forward on the path of justice. The Palestinians have suffered enough, it is time for the world to act.
Mike Norwebb, Gaborone, Botswana

A negotiated peace in the Middle East is simply not possible at this time. Peace will only come with the destruction of the terrorists and the governments that support them.
Bill, Chicago, USA

The only solution to this problem is a political one

Arif Sayed, Dubai, UAE
The current cycle of violence is unprecedented even by Middle East standards. Both Sharon and Arafat should know by now that the only solution to this problem is a political one. Neither on his own can do anything. The Palestinian have as much a right to an independent state of Palestine as Israel has a right to exist.
Arif Sayed, Dubai, UAE

There is no way to end this violence. As long as Palestinians send terrorists to murder innocent civilians, Israel will have to respond with force. What's the option? Should the Jews leave Israel? Get real. There is a difference between targeting terrorist leaders and targeting civilians. This is why my sympathy for the Palestinians is fading very fast. How can a group claim victimhood when they commit these atrocities so regularly?
Shawn, Washington, DC, USA

Shawn from Washington says should the Jews leave Israel? No, of course they shouldn't - but the Israelis should leave Palestine and abide by all UN resolutions, not just those that suit them.
Mark, UK

A viable solution would involve, from Israel's part, dismantling the settlements and taking steps towards implementing at least part of the UN resolutions as a necessary start. This has to be met by the Palestinians with a crackdown on militant groups that perform the horrible attacks on Israel. The Palestinians have to see a light at the end of the tunnel (a Palestinian state) whereas the Israelis have to feel secure about living side-by-side with the Palestinians. However, the realistic prospects of this happening are very slim. I have no hope for the Middle East problem.
Bogdan Bernevig, USA

See also:

28 Jan 02 | Middle East
Palestinian driver shot dead
27 Jan 02 | Middle East
In pictures: Jerusalem blast
27 Jan 02 | Middle East
Analysis: Mistrust deepens
28 Jan 02 | Middle East
Close call for 11 September survivor
23 Jan 02 | Middle East
US puts pressure on Arafat

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