NEWS

Ambassador: Israel does not want to kill Arafat

The Israeli ambassador to Greece yesterday defended Israel’s policy of assassinating suspected Palestinian militants and suicide bombers, and declared that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has no plans to kill Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who remains under house arrest by Israeli forces. «What we want is whatever the Palestinians had agreed to fulfill. If Sharon and the Mossad wanted to kill Arafat, they could have done it in two seconds. We don’t want it, because that would make him a hero,» Israeli Ambassador David Sasson, who recently renewed his term as ambassador to Greece, declared in an interview with Greek journalists. The Israeli diplomat went on to express the satisfaction of the Israeli government with what he described as recent cognition by various countries of the real policy pursued by Arafat. «He is playing in double face. He speaks with empty words,» Sasson said. He went on to note, though: «Still, Arafat was elected by the Palestinians, if you can call this an election… (and) we shall deal with him knowing that he is a liar. We shall deal with whoever leads the Palestinians.» Arafat has been practically under house arrest, surrounded by Israeli tanks stationed a few hundred meters away from his compound. Israel has been criticized by several countries for this extreme action, and some have even accused Israel of plotting the assassination of the Palestinian leader. Sasson acknowledged that Israel has tightened its grip on Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, but brushed off allegations of any assassination plot. «Yes, we are pressuring him. But we are not doing it to murder him, but to make him understand. We simply want him to do what he is supposed to do,» the Israeli diplomat stressed. Sasson, though, was adamant while defending Israel’s policy of assassinating suspected Palestinian militants and suicide bombers, saying that it is a «preventive activity» and that it had significantly reduced the attacks in Israel. «We are trying to keep up our struggle, in spite of criticism to stop suicide bombers before they enter Israel. If they pass, no one can stop them. [That can be done] only before they head out to fulfill their mission,» he said. The Israeli diplomat went on to explain that Israeli forces act only when Israeli intelligence has «strict and clear» information about suspected suicide bombers. Asked if he believed that the assassination policy is an ethical one, Sasson declared, «When you are fighting for your life, there is no place for ethics.» He explained that no one can guarantee complete security for a country, and that the security policy pursued by Sharon has been effective. «It is an illusion to think that one can protect a country totally from terrorism, no matter which country. But you have to do your utmost. You are not hearing what was avoided, those who didn’t succeed in their mission. I can’t tell you how many actions were avoided,» he stressed. The Israeli ambassador was also critical of Iran’s involvement in the struggle, with the Palestinian-bound arms shipment that was intercepted by Israeli commandos earlier in the month. A large number of the 50 tons of weapons that were seized are believed to have been supplied by Iran. «The game that Iran is playing, or is trying to play, is an attempt to influence the Middle East, the Hezbullah, and establish some kind of major role and gain influence,» Sasson remarked. «And that explains why Iran was behind the cargo. It was an Iranian production; and the vessel and trip were paid for by Iran.» The smuggling of the weapons, according to Sasson, has mostly infuriated the Egyptians. «Surprisingly, the country that was most angry with Arafat is Egypt, because it wants to keep its superior position in the Middle East,» Sasson said. «That is also because Arafat smuggled the weapons without notifying the Egyptians.» Sasson said that Iran is also in the process of developing long-range weapons that could reach Israel, while it underlined that Iraq is still making efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, such as biological and chemical weapons, and perhaps even a «dirty» bomb – a conventional bomb designed to spread radioactive material over a limited area.