The leader of Israel’s main Arab political party on Monday accused the Israeli government of murdering Yasser Arafat.
In an interview on Channel 2, Knesset member Ayman Odeh, who heads the Joint (Arab) List in the parliament, said the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service murdered Arafat. He said that Avi Dichter, who headed the Shin Bet in 2004 when Arafat died, “sent the people” who murdered him. Dichter is now a Likud MK.
Various Palestinian leaders, and Arafat’s widow Suha, have claimed since the PLO chief’s death that Israel assassinated him, an accusation Israel has always denied. Arafat died in Percy military hospital near Paris at the age of 75 in November 2004, after developing stomach pains while at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. French investigators last April announced they had not found evidence he had been poisoned, and a French prosecutor subsequently closed the case.
Odeh was being interviewed in the wake of a stormy Knesset committee session over planned legislation which, if passed, could give MKs the right to boot out a colleague for “inappropriate” behavior. Ninety of the 120 MKs would have to back such a step, which could be taken against MKs for supporting armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. The controversial bill, which is making its way through the Knesset, was initiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid widespread outrage that three Arab MKs from Balad, one of the Joint List’s constituent factions, recently held a meeting with families of terrorists killed during attacks or attempted attacks on Israelis.
Challenged on TV with the allegation that members of his party were supporting terrorism, Odeh responded, “People who murdered Arabs with their own hands are sitting in the Knesset.”
MK Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home), who chaired the Knesset panel session earlier in the day and was also in the TV studio, responded bitterly that Odeh was labeling as murderers “people whose job is to stop terrorism.”
“Absolutely,” insisted Odeh. “There are heads of the Shin Bet who gave orders to murder the leaders of the Palestinian people.”
Asked by the interviewer at the end of the segment whether he wanted to withdraw the allegation, Odeh repeated, “They sent the people to murder the leadership of the Palestinian people… Take Dichter, for instance,” he said. “He sent the people who murdered Arafat and Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi.” Yassin and Rantisi were two leaders of Hamas who advocated suicide bombings, and who Israel killed in separate, closely spaced raids in Gaza in 2004.