In an interview that was conducted by the New York Times several months ago, and was only published Wednesday (and then republished by Israeli Radio), Israeli President, Shimon Peres, stated that late Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, should not have been assassinated, adding that “without Arafat, the current situation is more complicated.”The Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, died at a French Military Hospital on November 11, 2004. On July 31st this year, Soha Arafat filed a lawsuit against “unknown” in France for the assassination of her husband.
Many Palestinians believe that Israeli forces which surrounded Arafat in his compound, in 2002, until he fell seriously ill and was airlifted to France, were behind the assassination of Arafat. Israel also bombarded sections of the compound, and bulldozed other sections, in addition to cutting power and water supplies, and phone lines. Israeli sharpshooters also occupied several surrounding buildings overlooking the office of Arafat, and killed five Palestinians in the compound, including members personal bodyguards of Arafat; at least 40 were injured and 70 were kidnapped. Israel also said that two Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack.
At the time, some Israeli politicians alluded to the possibility that Arafat had been assassinated, but none admitted it openly. Prior to Arafat’s death, Israeli leaders kept labeling him as an “obstacle to peace”. The then-Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, said in a press conference that “invading Ramallah, and the isolation of Arafat is only the beginning of an extended military offensive that aims at uprooting the infrastructure of terrorism”.
In the New York Times interview published this week, when asked if he thought that Arafat should have been assassinated, Peres replied “No”, and stated that It was possible for Israel “to do business with Arafat”, and that “without him, the situation became much more complicated”.
Peres also stated that Israel could not have reached the Oslo peace agreement without Arafat, and added that the Hebron agreement was also reached with Arafat, but claimed that he “tried to explain to Arafat how to be a true leader”.
The Israeli President added that he and Arafat sat together, “with me eating from his hand. It took courage. I told him he must be like Lincoln, like Ben-Gurion: one nation, one gun, not innumerable armed forces with each firing in a different direction”, the New York Times reported.
He further claimed that Arafat kept saying No in Arabic (la, la, la) but at the end said yes to what Peres told him, and added that “Arafat lied to him, with no problem”, as Peres was referring to “Arafat agreeing to fighter Palestinian fighters”, described by Peres are militants and insurgencies”.
Furthermore, Peres claimed that he “protected Arafat from several plots against his life”, and plots meant to remove him out of Palestine.
As for Israel assassination policies, Peres said that he opposes Israel’s use of targeting killings, and opposed Israel’s use of targeted killing as a means to achieve its goals.
He further stated that he also opposed the assassination of Khalil Al-Wazir (Abu Jihad) who was the deputy of Yasser Arafat, and was assassinated in Tunisia by an Israeli death squad, under direct orders of the Israeli Mosad, on April 16, 1996.
Twenty well-trained Israeli assassins working for the Mossad (Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations) were deployed at a Qurtaja shore in Tunisia; four ships, two submarined and two Israeli military hellicopeters were deployed in the area, and when Abu Jihad returned to his home, the Israeli commandoes and assassins headed to his home, killed his guards and went to his room where they fired several bullets at him. It is believed that he was shot by 70 rounds of live ammunition.
Peres added that he does not agree with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in his policies towards current Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.
“I do not accept the assertion that Abu Mazen [Abbas] is not a good negotiating partner”, Peres said, “To my mind, he is an excellent partner. Our military people describe to me the extent to which the Palestinian forces are cooperating with us to combat terror.”
Peres further claimed that Jewish settlements in the West Bank “did not void the two-state solution”, and added that Israel’s Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including in Jerusalem, “are only built on 2% of the Palestinian territory”.
Furthermore, Peres claimed that the Palestinian issue is not the main issue in the Middle East, but admitted that it is affecting Israel’s relations with 1.5 Billion Muslims in the world, and added that “once the conflict is resolved, extremist Islamists will not have an excuse to continue to attack us”, according to the Israeli President.
As for the current Israel government headed by Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and its inability to advance talks with the Palestinians, Peres said that “the problem is not with Netanyahu, the problem is his coalition partners”, referring to extreme right-wing fundamentalist coalition partners such as the extremist “Israel Our Home” party led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is also a settler and continuously denies the legitimate Palestinian rights, and in the past repeatedly called for their massive expulsion to Arab countries.
Lieberman also repeatedly stated that the Arabs and the Palestinians are a “strategic threat to the Jewish State”.
The Israeli President further said that he does not claim that peace with the Palestinians would lead to resolving all issues in the region, and added that “achieving this peace in not an easy task”.
Yet, the Israeli president said that he fully supported the latest Israeli military offensive on Gaza, and claimed that the operation “was not a war or a military offensive, but a lesson to Hamas”.
He also claimed that Israel “tried its best not to harm civilians in Gaza”, and added that “sometimes it is very difficult to differentiate between Hamas gunmen and innocent civilians”. He also claimed that Israel tried to tell Hamas that it has no objection to building homes in Gaza, but will not allow the movement to build rocket launchers.
The November 2012 8-day Israeli war on Gaza, led to the death of 191 Palestinians, including children, women and elderly, while at least 1492 Palestinians have been injured, dozens seriously.
8 children, including 16 under the age of five, have been killed by Israeli missiles and shells during the war, in addition to 12 women and 20 elderly.
Palestinians, including 533 children (195 under the age of 5), 254 women and 103 elderly have been injured by Israeli fire and shells, and at least five Palestinians have been killed after the ceasefire agreement was reached, and more than 54 have been injured.