- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 9, 2002

JERUSALEM Israel is poised to force Yasser Arafat into exile if Palestinian militants mount further attacks such as the suicide bombing of a crowded commuter bus in which 17 persons were burned alive last week, government sources said.
When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon meets President Bush in the White House tomorrow, he is expected to tell him that Mr. Arafat is now living on borrowed time.
Officials close to Mr. Sharon say he believes the slaughter aboard bus No. 830 last Wednesday will convince the Bush administration that the Palestinian leader can never be trusted, and to accept his expulsion, despite the resulting international uproar.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who held talks at Camp David with Mr. Bush yesterday, however, said Mr. Arafat alone could not end the current spate of attacks. "Believe me, he cannot control anything," Mr. Mubarak said in an interview. "He has no tools. He can't move."
As the Bush administration works on a Mideast peace plan, Mr. Arafat's role is likely to remain a stumbling block. Although Washington has insisted until now that Israel should not harm the Palestinian leader, Mr. Sharon's advisers say he is encouraged by signs that the Bush administration's patience is also running out.
Barely 24 hours before the bus attack, CIA Director George J. Tenet, dispatched to pressure Mr. Arafat to clamp down on militants, warned him during a factious meeting at the battered "presidential compound" in Ramallah that the United States would not restrain Israel in the event of further terrorist atrocities.
The following day, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer made a withering attack on Mr. Arafat as "someone who cannot be trusted or be effective," and hinted that Mr. Bush does not consider him irreplaceable.
At an emergency session in the Israeli war Cabinet summoned to decide how Israel would retaliate for the car-bomb attack on the bus, hard-line ministers demanded the immediate overthrow of Mr. Arafat. They argued that the Israeli public would support the action.
That was certainly the mood at the funerals of victims of bus 830 in Hadera, a self-styled "frontier town" in northern Israel, which has been attacked repeatedly by Islamic militants. Nine of those killed lived in Hadera, all of them young conscript soldiers, and in the scorching heat, emotions were running high as they were buried at the local military cemetery.


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