On November 7, Raanan Gissin commented on the instructions given by the then PM Ariel Sharon in 2002, to the effect that "everything [must] be done to ensure that Arafat... was not killed by our soldiers," the statement is correct but also misleading as to Israel's responsibility for Arafat's death. The Swiss team has concluded that polonium 210 was the weapon and in Francois Bochud's words the "results reasonably support the poisoning theory." Although recent French medical reports suggested otherwise and that he died of natural causes, yet we are left to ponder the reasons and the hands that carried out the murder not whether it was a murder. The question is why and what interests were served by killing Arafat?
Oslo, Arafat and ending the PLO
To understand the decision-making process that led to Arafat's murder, we must go back to the events that culminated into the Oslo Accords; the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; and the political re-emergence of Sharon after a prolonged absence which was the final nail in the "peace process coffin". From the beginning of the "peace process", Israel's leadership moved to create "facts on the ground" in an attempt to prejudice final negotiations and to strengthen the hold of settlers in the West Bank.
Israel had a deep mistrust of Arafat and the PLO. It attempted to eliminate both in the past. For Arafat, the engagement in peace negotiations was a strategic decision taken at a time of changing regional and global power structures. He believed in resistance and that it should always be an option independent of negotiations until the occupation is ended. Yet in this process Israel wanted Arafat to use his power to provide security for the settlements and settlers while they both expanded throughout the negotiations, an untenable position for the Palestinian leadership.
In this context, Israel understood and needed Arafat since he was not a regular figure, but rather an embodiment of the Palestinian struggle in his persona, history, dress and political machination. He was the bridge between all Palestinian factions and despite his best efforts to maintain control and discipline post-Oslo, Israel's strategy at fragmenting the PLO and penetrating its inner leadership circle in the Occupied Territories was gaining traction. Arafat's hold on power levers was the only remaining obstruction.
In reality, the PLO was the major challenge to Israel since it represented the Palestinians' collective claims and had an effective global footprint. I do have long standing and extensive critique of the PLO.This, however, should not be confused with recognising the importance and the role it played across the globe, managing to create a state of Palestine without a territory - a monumental feat if one considers the obstacles.
The hands that delivered the venom were ready to serve in a Palestinian Bantustan connected to the neoliberal Arab and Muslim order, with all its glitter and wealth.