Arafat apparently stands as the ever lasting excuse, used by Israel to avoid fulfilling its road map obligations.

Following repeated Israeli threats to expel Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday considered stripping Arafat of his power as key to making progress in the Middle East peace efforts.

Powell told Associated Press that the PA needs a prime minister with powers, which entails stripping Arafat of his current authority.

The secretary of state said the U.S. was willing to help the sides make progress, but called Palestinians take action in curbing terror and advancing reforms.

“Peace have to wait until Arafat is removed” Israeli Prime Minister Bureau Chief told European officials as they asked Israel to end the isolation of the besieged Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

As well, Israeli Defense minister Shaul Mofaz threatened to expel Arafat “when time allows”, foreign minister Silvan Shalom predicted that the time for it is closing.

From his side, Israeli Prime minister Ariel Sharon asked his ministers not to engage in any talks over the disengagement plan until after the Palestinian Authority disarm and dismantle armed groups, which he claims are harbored by Arafat.

The American Administration started an investigation on an attack on the American embassy in Khartoum that took place 31 years ago, hinting that they are particularly interested in finding whether Arafat had any involvement in the attack that took the lives of three diplomats.

The Administration warned that anyone who is proven to be related to the attack will be added to the list of wanted people by American justice.

Most of European countries believe that Arafat can play a constructive role in advancing the implementation of the disengagement plan.

The Dutch and German foreign ministers Bernard Bot and Joschka Ficher asked Israel to end its attempts to isolate Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom rejected their demand, confirming that Israel is sticking to its policy of isolating Arafat.

Bot, who heads the European Council of Foreign Ministers, told Shalom in their last week meeting in Maastricht that isolating Arafat was a mistake, and only worked to strengthen him.

Shalom responded that it is European officials’ ‘pilgrimages’ to Arafat that strengthen him.

A week ago, Fischer told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Israel needs Arafat to be able to implement the disengagement plan, stressing that no one else on the Palestinian side can help, but Arafat.

Israel supported by the U.S. considers any act of armed resistance to the occupation of the Palestinian territories as an act of terror, describing any group who fights with violent means as a terror group.

Both sides continually attempted to force on the Palestinian Authority to either join the fight against resistance groups or be treated as an authority that harbors terrorism.

Israel equate Al-Qaeda terror group with Palestinian resistance groups, especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad, demanding from the Palestinian Authority to abide to President’s Bush idea “who does not stand with us, stands against us”

Similar to the government of Saudi Arabia or Yemen , the Palestinian Authority is demanded to unconditionally mobilize its security forces against Palestinian resistance groups; the most important element in the U.S. requested PA reforms.

With the existence of an increasingly offensive military occupation, Arafat refrained from mobilizing his security forces to fight Palestinian resistance groups, demanding for any disbanding or disarming to be part of a comprehensive political plan to solve the Palestinian-Israeli crisis.

Arafat, so far, stands as the unchallenged Palestinian leader who enjoys considerable popular support.

As seen by many commentators, Arafat stands as the only Palestinian leader who is able, if a reasonable peace deal is offered, to enforce it, even against the well of few hard-line resistance groups.

Removing Arafat could mean removing the slim chance to conclude the conflict peacefully, and opens the door for an open ended conflict; a strategy that Palestinian hardliners have been advocating for long.

While the Americans might be misled by the simplistic idea of “war on terrorism” and not able to clearly see the complicated Palestinian-Israeli crisis context, Israel is likely to be fully aware of the consequences of “removing” Arafat.

Arafat apparently stands as the ever lasting excuse, used by Israel to avoid fulfilling its road map obligations.