Israel plans posthumous anti-Arafat disinformation campaign
By ALUF BENN and AMOS HAREL*
(11 November 2004) -- Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday that after the funeral of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israel will launch a propaganda campaign against him. The political-security cabinet yesterday approved the proposed plans to bury Arafat in Ramallah.
"It is feared that after his funeral Arafat will become a national hero and freedom-fighter," Sharon said. "We will launch a tough struggle to portray his murderous character and the fact that he is a strategist of world terror who hurt innocent people, both Israelis and American diplomats," he said.
The cabinet decided that the PA would be responsible for the public order and security in Ramallah during and after Arafat's funeral, and that Israel would not be involved in keeping order in the city. The Israel Defense Forces will be charged with "isolating" the event, in coordination with the Palestinians, to prevent a possible Palestinian attempt to "snatch" Arafat's coffin and bury him on the Temple Mount. However, at this time, this does not appear to be likely.
The defense establishment is getting ready for the Palestinian announcement of Arafat's death. Officials predict that it is most likely that the funeral will be held in relative quiet, but they are also preparing for other scenarios.
At this stage the PA's new leadership appears to be opting for a relatively small ceremony, for fear it may have trouble managing a large event. The Palestinians want to hold the memorial service in Cairo, in the presence of numerous world leaders. Then the body would be flown to Ramallah, where a ceremony would be held with the attendance of PA leaders, Fatah activists and foreign guests.
The PA will also hold symbolic funerals for Arafat in all West Bank and Gaza Strip cities for those who will not be able to make it to Ramallah.
IDF troops will form a "corridor" in which the foreign guests will move from Ben-Gurion Airport to Ramallah. Israel may allow Palestinian security forces to carry arms, unofficially.
The IDF will continue maintaining the roadblocks and allow no freedom of movement between the cities. Only funeral-goers will be allowed to leave their cities and go to Ramallah.
Israel's troops will be ordered to act with restraint and show respect for Palestinian grief, avoiding friction with the mourners as much as possible. Security sources said Israel will try to display goodwill toward the Palestinians regarding the funeral and refrain from sabotaging Abu Mazen's first leadership test.
Before the cabinet meeting Sharon consulted with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and with senior defense and intelligence officials, who all said Israel would prefer Arafat to be buried in Gaza, but recommended consenting to the Palestinian request.
Sharon concurred and was backed by Military Intelligence head General Aharon Ze'evi Farkash and Shin Bet head Avi Dichter.
Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon noted, however, that the Palestinians do not have organized defense forces in Ramallah as they do in Gaza.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom suggested demanding the funeral not be held on Friday, but to have it on Saturday, for fear of disturbances at the prayers on the Temple Mount. Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported him. But Mossad chief Meir Dagan and Amos Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry's political-security branch, objected, saying it was better not to set conditions.
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