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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Arafat's siege: Will his release ease tensions?
Ramallah siege
Israeli forces have completed their withdrawal from the ravaged compound of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah.

In exchange for freeing Yasser Arafat, the Palestinians wanted by Israel for killing the Minister of Tourism Rehavam Zeevi have been moved from Mr. Arafat's compound to a Palestinian prison.

Western diplomats say that the compromise over the siege of Yasser Arafat's compound is a significant step away from violence and confrontation.

In his first public comments after the withdrawal, an emotional Mr Arafat condemned the continuing stand-off at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Do you think that the lifting of the siege will help to ease tensions in the Middle East? This debate is now closed. A selection of your comments is published below.


Nothing will change

Tim Floyd, UK
Nothing will change. Just think if Arafat had arrested, months ago, the few hundred terrorists Israel had killed in operation Defensive Shield, this whole disaster could of been avoided. He knew their locations and could have picked them up in a few hours without firing a shot.
Tim Floyd, UK

Whether it is in Palestine, Kosovo or Kashmir, tensions will only cease when, from every church, temple and mosque in the world is preached that all religions are but different paths to the same goal, no one better than the other.
Dennis Dey, India

Both Arafat and Sharon have an axe to grind and both have to go for lasting peace. Removing Arafat will create a political vacuum, invite more radicalism and create anarchy. At that stage, you won't even have a strong political leader to discuss any comprehensive settlement. There will always be some radical who does not want peace
Victor Teo, Singapore

Arafat's 'release' will not make an iota of difference. Leopards don't change their spots. He's an inveterate liar even by Arab standards - look how the late Ling Hussein of Jordan had to boot him and his henchmen out of Jordan in the 70's.
Nigel, UK

We remember at all time that Palestinians kill Israeli civilians, but we forget that Israel occupies Palestinian lands, and kills 6 times more civilians. We know that UN is very strong, quick and efficient when it treat Iraqi case or Afghanistan case, but it is very weak, very impuissant when it cope with Israel. How can you explain that?
SM, France

It's obvious that this man does not have any ability to protect the Palestinians, he cannot even protect himself

Omar Therd, United Kingdom
It's obvious that this man does not have any ability to protect the Palestinians, he cannot even protect himself. He is just saying and doing whatever he is told to say and do. This is a fact.
Omar Therd, United Kingdom

Here is an imaginary situation: Israel militants are hiding themselves in the church, keeping hostages. Would be Palestinians blamed for not allowing them to go out freely and kill more Palestinians? It is regretful for me that UN inspectors will not come to Jenin, but I think Israeli government did the right thing.
Vladimir Beker, Israel

What is terrorist? Does it mean that if you watch your people died in vain by an oppressor you will be called a terrorist for standing up for yourself and your county. Israel is using the word (terror) for their sake.
Mann Mahdi , Mew Zealnd

No. When the USA, sorry, the UN starts to deal with the people on this planet in equal terms, and when we see a fair trial of what went on in Jenin, and when we see resolutions 194, 242, 1397, 1402 and 1403 implemented fully then we might see ease of the tension that the US and UK have created.

Does anyone here seriously think that Israel giving up settlements, and even East Jerusalem will actually stop the terrorists? No, it won't. Arafat still wants the destruction of Israel. Its always been his goal.

Let's not dream and be realistic for the first time in our lives when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The only country that can make Israel deliver is the USA, and that is far from reality since the right wing congressmen control the congress at the moment. Without the withdrawal out of the occupied territories and the dislodging of illegal settlements there will never be peace in that cursed land.
Refat Salameh, Jordan

Releasing Arafat will not bring peace

Robert, USA
Releasing Arafat will not bring peace. Bush only got involved to try to get the Arab on side so he could use their bases to Bomb Iraq. He has no interest in Palestine, and secretly agrees that the West Bank should belong to biblical Israel. For those of you that don't have access to US cable news, Congressman Armey, Rebublican leader of the US House of Representatives gave an interview to MSNBC which was played on US national TV where he openly stated that he favoured forcibly moving the Arabs from the west bank.
Robert, USA

Arafat can ease the tensions but if he does so he can not stay as a leader of Palestine.
Rajaa, us

The only difference between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian suicide bombers is that the Israelis have high-tech American weapons to protect themselves. The results: terror, destruction, and civilian deaths are precisely the same. What abortion of justice allows the world to call the Palestinians terrorists, when in fact international law grants them the right of resistance against illegal Israeli occupation?
Richard, Switzerland

I think nothing will help the situation but the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories

Saleh, Saudi Arabia
I think nothing will help the situation but the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories. I guarantee peace for all Israelis if that done. There is nothing more that Arabs need.
Saleh, Saudi Arabia

I strongly believe the world should move these two groups of people, one to the North Pole and the other to the South Pole and then there is peace. The hatred between these two groups of people are so deep and this will last forever. Once these two groups of people are relocated to different poles; the International community should plant a forest in these lands and no one can claim them.
Elmer, Canada

Nothing will ease the present tension between both sides. The only way to ease the tension in the Middle East is to get rid off the two rival leaders who are committing modern crimes against humanity. I think most freedom-loving countries in the world should bring charges against both leaders (Yasser Arafat and Sharon) on War Crime charges and constructing violence against civilians and put them in prison where they belong.
Amanuel, USA

Arafat will never change. He is the biggest disaster the Palestinians have ever had. It seems to me Arab countries just have to have a dictator of some sort in charge to be happy.
Tim Floyd, UK

It is sorrowful that the balance of power is so outweighed towards Israel whose unlawful occupation of the Palestinian Territories continues

Michael, United Kingdom
The world watches in disbelief as the United Nations disbands its Jenin inspectors. As described by Red Cross officials the scenes in Jenin are "Horrendous beyond belief" and yet Israel has managed to avoid the glare of International scrutiny into their acts of destruction. It is sorrowful that the balance of power is so outweighed towards Israel whose unlawful occupation of the Palestinian Territories continues.
Michael, United Kingdom

Freeing Arafat will not resolve the Middle East crisis. I know several Palestinians who believe that he is only clinging onto power. For me this current crisis was brought about when a right wing Jew killed a moderate peace loving Jewish prime minister. There are Hawks on both sides now, who are more interested in staying in power than in negotiating for peace. I totally abhor the spiral of violence, and all terrorists should be brought to justice. But this also begs another question, if the Israelis have nothing to hide in Jenin, then why are they not allowing the UN in to investigate?
Peter, Sarajevo, Bosnia

Arafat has sunk to the lowest level possible by claiming that his Muslim insurgents have any right to use the Church of the Nativity as a "fort" for his PA gunmen. Arafat has No respect for Christians. It is so insulting to me to see him pound on the table saying that this is a "holy place" when his own insurgents desecrate and disrespect our Christian churches.

It seems so strange to me to see so many people with a twisted view of history. If the History books are correct, it appears there would not be any problems if the Arabs stop going to war with Israel. Each time Arabs wage war with Israel, they lose land. When will the world learn, Arafat says one thing, and then launches human bombers. Peace for as long as it takes Arafat to get his hands on more weapons, with the money the EU, and UN gives him.
Mark Morris, USA

Israelis made sure that Arafat has no means to enforce anything

Les, USA
Will it ease tension? Yes, but not much. Israelis made sure that Arafat has no means to enforce anything. They destroyed the whole infrastructure of Palestinian Authority. They hunted down and shot their policemen like animals. What means does Arafat now have beside his personal authority and the respect Palestinian people have toward him? In light of this demands put forward by Bush sound like an awful joke.
Les, USA

Now that Arafat has been set free the USA and other peace-seeking countries should put the pressure on him to sit down and talk peace not for propaganda sake but for peace sake.
Zahra, Iran

Israel should return the west bank to Jordan and Gaza to Egypt. Then let's see if the Arabs will demand a Palestinian state? I think not.
Vincent, USA

The restraining of Arafat is not going to ease any situation, what Israel did is to promote further problems by enclosing him and others which will cause much anger and retaliation. This is going to only make matters worse for everyone. It is unfortunate that neither Israel nor Palestine could work together for once. Until that time there will be no peace in the Middle East.
Mrs. Jude Garner, USA

I have little hope that much will change because of Arafat's release. If anything, destruction of multiple caches of weapons and explosives by Israeli troops may decrease the wave of terrorist attacks enough to give the politicians a chance to negotiate a peace treaty. I hope, however, that this time Palestinian negotiators don't have to ask for Arafat's permission to accept or reject a deal - since Arafat has vetoed a deal the Palestinian negotiators were begging him to accept during the negotiations in Camp David, USA.
Serge T., USA

I find it interesting how we find it easy to justify the Israeli brute force approach to the occupied territories. Israel has a deep responsibility to the Palestinians just as the US has to the Indians. What if the offensive was in Seattle? What kind of world response to the dozen or so murders would ensue? Or is it that "terrorist" Arab Palestinians are ok to kill? Are all men then not created equal?
Tewfik, USA

The problem is not Arafat or Sharon, they are only a small part of the problem

Najwa, UK
The problem is not Arafat or Sharon, they are only a small part of the problem. The problem is the unjust occupation and humiliation of the Palestinian people. No person on this earth would hate living in peace, but when your basic needs and rights as a human being are denied, your brothers are shot at, or you have to raise your children alone in unbearable conditions, you would understand that the vision of a just peace is far beyond your reach.
Najwa, UK

Palestinian apologists wave away this double standard with the magic mantra of ``occupation.'' More nonsense. Twenty-one months ago, Israel offered a total end to the occupation, ceding 100 percent of Gaza and 97 percent of the West Bank to the first Palestinian state ever. The Palestinians turned that down and took up the suicide bomb. By the Orwellian logic of today, the Palestinians are justified in perpetrating one massacre after another to end an occupation that Israel offered to remove almost two years ago.
Dave Loev, USA

Sharon has never wanted peace. He has done everything possible to prevent it. He hasn't stopped the bombing, nor will he unless he obeys the many UN resolutions that Israel has flouted, with collusion from the USA, for so long. The only really honourable Israeli Prime Minister was Rabin - and what happened to him? Was that "democratic?
D. Smith, England

Whilst the release of Arafat is to be welcomed, it will do little to relieve tensions

John Davey, Lebanon
Whilst the release of Arafat is to be welcomed, it will do little to relieve tensions. The problem does not extend back the last five months, or even the last year. It goes back to 1967 when Israel illegally occupied Palestinian territory and has consistently ignored international law and UN Security Council resolutions to get out. It is outrageous that Colin Powell now says the forthcoming peace conference is Arafat's last change for peace. This tells us a lot about the stance the US will take even before the talks begin. If the talks are a last chance for anything, it should be Israel's last chance to obey international law and conform to UN resolutions before aid is cut off and the money redirected into building a viable Palestinian state beyond the legally recognised borders of Israel.
John Davey, Lebanon

Sharon needs to extend greater autonomy to the Palestinians, they have the right to self determination and their own state. Sadly this will not be reached until Arafat is out of the picture as his agenda is to continue the armed struggle, not work for peace. Sharon and the Israelis should stop turning Arafat into a martyr, and work with more moderate Palestinians to find a political solution.
Mike, UK

I saw Arafat interviewed on the BBC news last night. When asked whether he would stop the suicide bombings, his response was to walk out from the interview. What hope for peace?
Marc, UK

I don't know why the world can't see the truth-Israel offered the Palestinians a state including part of Jerusalem and they declined the offer and started with their terror. They say they are occupied, we say we offered you freedom which you turned down. Now they'll have to pay the price!
Guy Abraham, Israel

I would like to set some Arab claims straight: 1. Israel doesn't follow UN resolutions. May I remind them that in 1947 the UN decided to establish two states in the holy land: a small Jewish state and a bigger Arabic one. The Arabs rejected it and started a war against Israel in order to destroy it. So don't talk to me about UN resolutions. 2. The Palestinians are entitled to a state. I'll remind you that they missed many opportunities for that. The main two: In 2000 at Camp David they were offered a state on 95% of the territories including parts of Jerusalem and turned it down. The second opportunity as I mentioned was in 1947. 3. The Israelis are committing massacres in the Palestinians cities. I can assure the world that it is a lie. Even an International Human rights organization cleared Israel of this suspicion. All of the Israelis are very sorry for the innocent lives that were lost but everyone need to know that the only one responsible for the suffering of the two peoples is Yasser Arafat.
Haggai, Israel

The so called "golden opportunity for a Palestinian state two years ago" (Boris Gurevich, Australia) is another red herring that was repeated ad nauseam by presumably well informed American senators yesterday, when they overwhelmingly voted their resolution expressing solidarity with Israel. The naked truth is that at Camp David Arafat was offered 97% of the territory he asked for, but that included Israeli colonies, roads between those colonies and between each colony and Israel as well as a one hundred meter security band on each side of each road. When you subtract all this, what is left is only 55% of the 28% that was left in 1948.
Antoine, Canada

In this section, Mr. Boris Gurevich mentions that Arafat has rejected a golden opportunity for a Palestinian state two years ago. This is one of the deeply held illusions created by Israel's propaganda machine and continuously repeated by American politicians. Arafat was offered a state that lacked contiguity and viability. Barak's generous proposal would have given the Palestinian three chuncks of land in the West Bank surrounded by Israeli troops and settlements, no sovereignty over East Jerusalem and no solution for the refugees' legitimate right of return. I would like to refer the reader to the honest and informed analysis written by David Clark (The brilliant offer Israel never made, The Guardian, April 10).
Ismail, Egypt

Well, it's hard to see what can persuade Arafat to work for peace after he rejected a golden opportunity for a Palestinian state two years ago. But hope should not be lost. Perhaps he can now realise that this time it is really his last chance...
Boris Gurevich, Australia

His release will make little difference, for the problems lie in occupation, settlements and injustice.
Mick, UK

To Justus Ohlhaver: Your 'history' lesson sounds more like a propaganda tract. First, allow me to point out that there has always been a Jewish presence in 'Palestine'. Second, many so-called Palestinians are (or were) really Arabs from other areas of the Middle East who came to the area that became modern Israel after the Zionists arrived there in large numbers and created economic opportunities. Third, the Palestinian refugee problem came about in the midst of wars (in 1948 and 1967) that were clearly the result of Arab aggression and an attempt to 'push the Jews into the sea'. As a final point, why do you fail to discuss the fate of Jewish refugees from Arab countries? This is certainly relevant because approximately 600,000 Jews were forced to flee or were driven from homes in Arab nations. The difference between them and the 'Palestinian' refugees is that while the Jews took in their brothers and sisters (in Israel), the Arabs used the 'Palestinian' refugees as political pawns and allowed them to continue to live in horrible conditions for 54 years (and counting).
Gary, Japan

Negotiations between Arafat and Israel will lead to nothing. Only outside pressure on Israel by the international community - foremost the US and the EU - will lead to an Israel that ends the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, treats its Arab and Jewish citizens alike, and allows refugees to return to their homes. This change will not come from within Israel, nor will the Palestinians be able to achieve anything either through violence against - or through negotiations with Israel.

We have to remember 'that these two nations' have NOT 'been fighting for thousands of years' (as Aaron, USA assumes) but that Israel was only founded in 1948 by foreign Jewish settlers, that 800,000 of the native one million Arabs were displaced and dispossessed and that Gaza and the West Bank were annexed from Egypt and Jordan in 1967. It is my suspicion that not everybody is informed about these basic historical facts.
Justus Ohlhaver, New York, USA

You may like him or not, but it is our issue who will be our prime-minister.

Vladimir Beker, Israel
It is cool, how many people from so-called democratic countries speak about the 'removing of Sharon from political scene'. What about the removing of Bush, Blair or Annan from political scene? Don't you have such an idea? You may like him or not, but it is our issue who will be our prime-minister. Even claiming that Arafat has not been elected in democratic way (since there was no real competition - like in USSR in the past) and that Israel cannot deal with him, I am still completely sure that Israel may not replace him - it is the job of Palestinians.

The only thing that Israel may (and should claim): as long as Arafat is Palestinian leader, Israel sees no possibility to speak about peace, since no peace agreement with Arafat will be trusted. But again, Israel should not take any steps to replace him - we should wait until it will be done by Palestinians.
Vladimir Beker, Israel

Peter Kostka is right; interim solutions will not bring about ultimate peace. Arafat should be keen to accept a plan that is swift and final in its actions. However, if he rejects a peace plan because its phases will take to long, then he will be unfairly painted as "refusing to talk". It is interesting to note that Israelis consistently have pushed plans with pullouts in phases with conditions attached to each phase. The fact is even if these conditions are met, the Israelis will say they aren't(like the UN Jenin mission), any attempt to criticize that, and Israel immediately brings up its sovereignty in the matter-not a true road to peace.
Mike, USA

A major problem is the US reluctance to take a positive lead. Some might ask why should it? For its own interests as much as anyone else's, as the presently dominating world player. It is in many ways a choice between getting to grips with the realities and details of making peace or playing with emotive rhetoric and carrying on the current conflict. Sharon has made his choice for the latter, the US as a friend needs to take the former and save Israel from Sharon's route.
Barry B, UK

The prospects are still not good. The reality is that Sharon does not want to give up land, and prefers to crush Palestinian hopes for a state. But there is a price that Israel pays under Sharon, and that is tarnishing of its reputation and doubt about its truthfulness. Sharon is betraying Israel.
Barry B, UK

Releasing Arafat will do nothing for peace as Israel has no intentions of giving up the West Bank and removing the settlements. The Jewish and fundamental Christian lobby in the US will prevent any solution that is adverse to Israel. Remember Bush's father lost to Clinton when the religious right voted for a third party candidate.
Bob , US

As long as Israel illegally occupies Palestinian lands, there can be no real peace solution

Z Adil, USA
As long as Israel illegally occupies Palestinian lands, there can be no real peace solution. Let Israel vacate all settlements and withdraw from Palestinian lands. The Barak deal was a scam that the media picked up. The truth is that only about 70% of Palestinian lands were being offered in three separate pockets in the West Bank.
Z Adil, USA

How ignorant and dismissive of the fact can some people be? How could one expect peace, if state terrorism as the one being conducted by Israel being accepted and backed by countries like US? I am sure there is many people in the state of Israel as in Palestine would like to be regarded as equals, live in peace with each other regardless of their beliefs.
Hanson, UK

Sure it will, and if you believe that, I have some choice real estate for sale in Afghanistan. By now it should be obvious that the current Israeli government is not interested in peace unless it is on its own terms.
Steve K, Canada

In response to Steve, Merseyside - "Only 48 dead" - only? How would you feel if that 48 included your mother, your father, your sisters and brothers, grandparents and children? It sickens me when someone inserts an "only" in front of a number of dead people.

I highly doubt that this will make a difference. Do not forget that there are many dissident people who will not listen to Yasser Arafat and simply just stop. These dissidents are bent on revenge for the deaths that their family members have suffered. Hence you can guarantee that more suicide bombings will follow and Israel will retaliate and more suicide bombings will follow and Israel will retaliate etc., etc., etc.
Paul Richings, Barbados

Barak, Peres, and Rabin were all completely reasonable Prime Ministers who would have made good peace partners

DeDe, Canada
Arafat has had plenty of opportunity for peace. Barak, Peres, and Rabin were all completely reasonable Prime Ministers who would have made good peace partners. But no. The suicide bombings continued and the Israeli people got frustrated and voted for more right wing candidates.
DeDe, Canada

The tension will not ease in the Middle East until the US stops its support for state terrorism and corrupt leaders in the region. Bush calls Sharon "a man of peace", a man who is a war criminal in every sense of the word, both past and present. While Arafat who "has not yet earned his trust", a man who won the Nobel peace prize.
Mustapha AH, UK

No. Arafat's emotional rhetoric and Sharon's belligerence are disastrous to the region. The Palestinians and Israelis need reasonable people to negotiate for a lasting peace.
NMyakairu, USA

The only way that this conflict will ever begin to come to an end, is if we remove Arafat and Sharon.
Lee, UK

Of course not. I think peace and dignity for the Palestinian people will only come about when Arafat and people like him are totally removed from the situation, and replaced by people who don't believe suicide bombings are a legitimate form of protest. To those who turn a blind eye to the suicide bombers under the argument that they are 'desperate', why does no-one else in the world resort to it? Any treaty between Israel and the PA is irrelevant as long as HAMAS, Islamic Jihad et al are free to ignore it.
Andrew, UK

I used to pity the Israelis and the plight of the Jewish people - with what has happened to them throughout history, but with watching the news in these last 20 months, has made me realise that although they claim to be fighting terror - it seems more like they have a chip on their shoulder about all of this. Gone is the glory of the wars of the 60's and 70's - now slaughtering of innocents just to make a point. All you get from their Ministers is they are fighting against terror. Just think if the British Goverement had this attitude during the problems in Ireland.
John, Doncaster, England

I had hoped that Mr Arafat would not be as rhetoric

Khalid Rahim, Canada
I had hoped that Mr Arafat would not be as rhetoric. I do not expect any remorse from Mr Sharon, as it's very difficult for him to comprehend and the two must regret.
Khalid Rahim, Canada

When you live under the occupation you have to fight your heart out to live in dignity and honour. Arafat does not have full control of Palestinians. I lived under the occupation and the colonialists sent the leader to an exile but the fight never ended until we saw freedom.
Khalid, USA

Of course freeing Arafat in itself won't bring peace. How long do you think he, or any other Palestinian would survive if he started telling his people to respect Israel without getting anything in return? And even if he did just how is he supposed to control three million embittered people without a police force, army or transport - by writing nasty letters? Get real! Miracles left this region with Jesus.
Simon O'Brien, UK

Arafat doesn't want to negotiate in good faith, he wants Israel to be history. If he and the Arab/Palestinian people wanted a two state solution all the current refugees would be made citizens of Jordan (also created in 1948) and they would proceed to do the job of building the lives of those who have been kept as bargaining chips all these years.
Sarah Michlin, USA

I think both Arafat and Sharon should both be replaced with the next generation of leaders

Keitha Knowles, Australia
No, I don't think the release of Arafat will help with the tension. I think both Arafat and Sharon should both be replaced with the next generation of leaders.
Keitha Knowles, Australia

No he should remain in his compound. There will not be peace with him.
Ali Raza, Danmark

Lifting the siege will most probably do nothing constructive. As far as Arafat is concerned, once a terrorist, always a terrorist. A lasting peace can only be achieved once Palestinians discard their desire to destroy the State of Israel.
Dan, Australia

Why does the world conveniently forget that at Camp David and Taba a real basis for a peace settlement was put on the table by Barak? This was a sign of good will and a real basis for a meaningful discussion. Instead, Arafat reverted to his real person and resorted to dreadful terror.
Jonathan, Canada

No peace while Arafat is around, ask the last dozen Israeli leaders who've tried to thrash out a peace deal with this man. By the way, Amnesty International, Red Cross and all others - Your friends have deceived you once again and left you screaming the odds about non-existent massacres that never took place (900 claimed dead, only 48 confirmed dead, 'the heroes of Jenin' according to P.A. spokesman).
Steve, Merseyside

To Graham Jones, UK: If the Arabs conquered Israel, there would be no Jews left a live to resist, never mind if it would be terrorism or not.
Nathaniel, USA

If Israel were conquered and occupied by one of its Arab neighbours and Muslim settlers encouraged to move into Israeli's land, would the people sit back and accept it or resist by force? If so, would this then be terrorism?
Graham Jones, UK

It is very clear that Yasser Arafat is the symbol of the Palestinians' aspiration for achieving an independent Palestinian state

Henry , Sweden
It is very clear that Yasser Arafat is the symbol of the Palestinians' aspiration for achieving an independent Palestinian state. A state free from Israeli occupation and settlements. What happened in occupied Palestine since the 29th of March is a grave violation of human rights and a humiliation of a whole nation. The UN fact-finding mission should not have been disbanded. It is a disgrace to everything that The United Nations stands for.
Henry , Sweden

I pity Arafat. His people have been stripped of their dignity, live in 3rd world conditions, are treated like animals by the Israelis and Arafat can offer them no hope. When will the UN act to counter balance the evil American pro-Israeli stance?
A Khan, UK

Arafat's imprisonment was just an event to divert people to care for his situation and forget about the war crimes committed in everywhere else, I don't know how the so called "civilized" world can accept something like this?
Karim Boseli, Egypt

Once the world start seeing the other side of picture and stand by the democratic values of justice and freedom for all there is a chance for peace
Salman, USA

Arafat now has the highest support amongst his people. This is his golden opportunity to change his ways and really go for peace. Only European pressure can give this a chance, but I doubt it will happen.
Itzik, USA

Every day that the conflict is addressed in terms of interim solutions is a day wasted

Peter Kostka, US/Canada
Perhaps months ago minor agreements like that regarding Arafat would have eased tensions. But now in midst of a way the only thing that will ease tensions is a complete political solution and removal of the leaders on both sides. It is naive to think that any token gesture will make people forget the death of their family or neighbours. What is truly amazing is that it seems the international community doesn't understand this. UN peacekeepers, prisoner deals and interim agreements are a year overdue. Every day that the conflict is addressed in terms of interim solutions is a day wasted.
Peter Kostka, US/Canada

Releasing Mr Arafat was doubtless the right thing to do but I don't see how his release can possibly be said to have helped improve the current situation. You could see it Mr. Arafat's eyes and hear it in the terrible tone of his voice in the recent news conference. The Israelis may have diffused a short-term stand off, but Mr. Sharon has now, unfortunately, turned what previously could have been said to have been a halfway compliant ally into a wildly vengeful enemy.
Peter Grimes, UK

No. No it will not, and will you please address the issues?! It's not a matter of conniving Arafat or sanguine Sharon! There are lives, rights, dignity, and the desire to live in peace involved. Remove these two leaders.
Diran Mardirian, Lebanon

Arafat and Sharon are the least of the world's worries now. The seeds of hatred that have been sown between these two peoples in the last several months will last for generations. Whose fault is this? Sharon for replacing peace with war to begin with months ago, Arafat for failing to hold back the sea, Bush for sucking his thumb instead of taking action, and the UN for remaining impotent. But how could anyone, least of all Arafat who has no power structure left, hope to improve the situation now?
Aron Hsiao, USA

Many people call the Israelis' actions abhorrent yet dismiss the fact that they were attempting to root out terrorists

Steve, UK
I find it somewhat incredible to suggest that by freeing Arafat there could be any movement towards peace. Many people call the Israelis' actions abhorrent yet dismiss the fact that they were attempting to root out terrorists. These Palestinian bombers are murderers, they are not freedom fighters or revolutionaries they are just cold blooded murderers who target innocent civilians and children. Arafat feels that these tactics are justifiable yet Western statesmen continue to deal with him. There will never be peace until more moderate leaders take control of the Palestinian people and stop terrorist bombing. Arafat has continually gone back on agreements he has made and has out of hand refused to accept the best chances offered for his people. He knows that without conflict he would quickly become marginalised as the extremist he obviously is and so has no reason to promote peace.
Steve, UK

Nothing apart from a full withdrawal from Palestinian land will halt the problems in the occupied territories. We must never forget or as often happens, overlook the horrendous abuse of human rights that takes place in Palestine every day. We could never comprehend the anger, resentment and humiliation that the people of Palestine live with.
Craig, Scotland

There is no doubt in my mind that these two nations that have been fighting for thousands of years will continue this current cycle of violence. The only solution is an impartial third party, the UN, keeping the borders secure on both sides. I hate to say it, but complete separation is the only way to end this current wave of violence. Let the Israelis do their own construction and staff their service industries and let the Palestinians provide employment for themselves. If the borders were completely sealed then there would be no suicide bombers entering Israel.
Aaron, USA

Arafat's release will not ease tensions, even though he is indispensable to any settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The carnage and destruction of the last few months has left deep scars. Sharon is simply a liability to the Israeli cause.
N Solomon, South Africa

The only way to ease tension is to do what the British Government did. That was to sit down with members of the IRA, who had been branded terrorists for years and talk. It seems to me Israel has to eat its pride and be sensible, like our own Government did.
Neil Allen, England

Arafat must unequivocally and unconditionally condemn all the acts of terrorism

Mahesh Chandra Somani, Finland
Both Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat must accept the fact that only the path of peace, non-violence and reconciliation can facilitate further progress in negotiations between the two sides. Arafat must unequivocally and unconditionally condemn all the acts of terrorism unleashed on the civilian population by the militant groups operating from the Palestinian territories. Even though there has been extensive loss of life and property in the recent military action by Israel against the militant groups, the world still expects Arafat to exercise restraint and look for ways to initiate a meaningful dialogue. Enough time has already been lost in the continuing conflict between the two states and any stand-off in future will only delay the peace process. As far as Israel is concerned, they should immediately halt all the military operations as demanded by the PA, USA and the UN.
Mahesh Chandra Somani, Finland

Any agreement made will ultimately count for nothing. The politicians may agree a peace plan, but as we have seen in Ireland, if the people of Palestine view the occupation of what was Palestinian land by the Israelis as unlawful, they will resort to terrorism to ensure their feelings are known. The only real solution would be to give all of the land back to the Palestinians - Which has the same chances of peace in this region - none.
R Callister, UK

This is with out doubt Arafat's last chance. If he acts firmly to stop the incitement and bombings then he will once again find himself in a position to negotiate a true and just peace for his people. However if he does not then he will once again show that he is still the same man he was in the 1970/80s - a terrorist who only wants a resolution to this conflict when Israel ceases to exist. Lets hope for the sake of us all he chooses the first option.
Lee, England

I do not believe that this will help one way or another. Arafat has been allowed very limited freedom by Israel only after his government infrastructure - frail as it was before - has been totally destroyed. This will leave anarchy ruling in these territories which makes it far easier for Israel to control even though the total hatred of individual Palestinians has been reinforced by the recent actions of Israel.
W J Andrews, England

As long as these two violent men are around there can be no solution

David, UK
Not much hope! As long as these two violent men are around there can be no solution, think what you like about them. Sharon has vowed to kill Arafat, Arafat has no control (even less now thanks to the Israelis). Where is the meeting point? Of course cold blooded murder has to stop - but on both sides. I hear that the Israeli objective is to kill 20 for each one of their own. The Palestinians have no voice but the bomb. Just as in NI, the violence will not stop until the oppressed minority sees some hope and the oppressors see a more secure future. Which is which!
David, UK

I'm not sure this helps or hurts, or even if it particularly relevant. It seems clear that nobody outside the conflict has any will (in the case of Israel) or ability (in the case of Palestine) to restrain either side. The Israelis seem bent on claiming that the whole world is against them, but for a country receiving billions of dollars in foreign aid, this rings somewhat hollow. The Palestinians are clearly, as a whole, not ready for peace, but I find it hard to believe that the latest Israeli actions were helpful to resolving that state of affairs.

If both sides really want a ceasefire and if this latest exchange of Arafat's freedom for foreign guards is to mean anything, let's scale it up. Allow Palestine to be a UN administered territory for some number of years, and make the UN responsible for keeping the Israeli army out or Palestine and the Palestinian bombers out of Israel. I think the reactions of the two parties will make quite clear who is really in this for peace, and who wants the current state of affairs to continue. We've seen before, and likely will continue to see, which side is ready to cooperate with the international community.
Peter, Denmark

An agreement on anything between Israelis and Palestinians is a step forward toward more agreements and an eventual peace settlement.
Matthew, UK

It may help, provided that serious steps are taken to stop the cold blooded murder of civilians.

Uri Hurwitz, USA
It may help, provided that serious steps are taken to stop the cold blooded murder of civilians. As long as Arafat and his supporters in the Middle East and abroad consider civilians, men women and children legitimate targets for deliberate killing, no solution to the crisis is possible.
Uri Hurwitz, USA

I think Arafat will be eager to show he has not been "subjugated" by Israel, the US, or any moderate influence. The Palestinian terror campaign will certainly begin anew, and Israel will rightfully defend itself. Besides, one wonders if Sharon has not been doing Palestine a favour. With Arafat under lock and key, this gives more moderate and forward-thinking elements in the Palestinian community a chance to come into the limelight and lead. What next in Palestine, democracy?
Bomo, USA

Yes, this will ease tensions. Arafat, Whether anybody likes it or not, is nominated by his people as their leader. Hurting a pride of the leader is hurting a pride of his people. How can Arafat ever stop suicide bombers under siege? How can Palestinians accept peace with a hurt pride?
Lasheen, Egypt

It is amazing. Let me remind that according to Oslo agreement (signed by Arafat) ALL terrorists should be passed to Israel and judged by Israel. Israel is making an unbelievable compromise and it still finds itself as the blamed side. You ask whether this step will ease tensions. My answer is no. Arafat understand that the European community is on his side (no matter what he does) and will not stop the violence. And the next round will begin. I think that after couple of weeks (probably months) US and UK guards will find a proper reason to leave Yericho and terrorists will be free. I believe Israel did a big mistake in this compromise: no matter what we do, European community finds a cause to blame Israel. So Israel should do what it finds the best no matter what Europe thinks about it.
Vladimir Beker, Israel

The UN should put peacekeeping troops in Palestine NOW

Tony, UK
I cannot believe that Bush & Blair are standing idly by and letting Israel treat the UN with such contempt. It should be obvious now to everyone that the Israelis have something to hide in Jenin. The UN should put peacekeeping troops in Palestine NOW before the Israelis are allowed to commit more war crimes.
Tony, UK

Unfortunately tensions will remain because Arafat believes a Palestinian state will be achieved through terrorism rather than negotiations. Arafat is the problem rather than the solution. The US recognised this a long time ago. When will Europe and the UN see Arafat in the same light?
Simon G, UK

Releasing Arafat does nothing to solve the larger problem. This is just the latest distraction. As a result of his incarceration, Arafat's stock has risen dramatically. He is now seen by many to be a victim. Thanks to the Israelis, Arafat now embodies the Arab sentiment that Palestinians are oppressed and treated unfairly. Further, what makes anyone think that Arafat is in any hurry to be released?... at least in the short term. For the first time in a long time Arafat is in a stronger political position within the Arab world and arguably in many parts of the rest of the world. If any good can come of this, it might be that his increased stature can be used to bring some of the more radical Palestinian factions under control when and if a peace can ever be negotiated.

Until Israel and Palestine recognize that both of them essentially want the same thing; that is to be recognized by the other as having a right to exist, there will be no peace.
John Saxton, USA

Doubtful. Until Israel is reined in and made accountable, release Arafat is mere show. Israel's refusal to allow the UN into Jenin speaks volumes. I think its time we imposed Iraq-like sanctions on Israel - after all whats good for the goose is equally good for the gander.
Janeen, USA

Who will guard the guards?

Unfortunately these guards could rapidly become prime targets for murder or abduction by one of the numerous Palestinian terrorist groupings or their al-Qaeda allies. In a territory where lynching is an increasingly frequent occurrence, who will guard the guards?

Arafat will have no control over what is happening, he will only be a scapegoat. If the bombings stop, Sharon will claim his operation was a success and will take the credit, if they don't, he will blame Arafat. As long as the settlers remain, how can there be peace? Sharon will never make them leave unless forced to do so. We should tell Israel that the aid they have been getting will be going into rebuilding the towns they have destroyed, and take money from the Palestinians every time one "martyrs" them self to kill Israelis. I don't think Sharon would be so quick to blow things up if it was coming out of the billions he gets from the US, or that martyrs would be as popular if each of them cost the Palestinians millions of dollars in aid.
Tim, US

The first action of Sharon is to send his troops into Hebron. He doesn't WANT any peace until all possibility of a Palestinian state has been eliminated. The IDF destruction and theft of all the ministerial/statistical records and land title deeds of the Palestinians is designed to do just that. It's also a way to deny the people's existence: no names, no way of knowing who or how many were massacred in Jenin. The imprisonment or "release" of Arafat is only designed to take attention away from the rape of a people's heritage. There cannot be peace, only a lull in the fighting.
Shaun, France

The present lull is an opportunity for a way out of this nightmare

Seth, US
The present lull is an opportunity, small but real, for a way out of this nightmare. Some have suggested that Israel's continuing incursions have tended to undermine that possibility. That is naive. The unfortunate reality is that no progress will be made unless pressure is maintained on the terrorist network. The EU and UN must begin to play a more even-handed role by focusing on the legitimate demands that can be placed on each side. For all we hear from Europeans about Jewish influence on American politics, there seems to be surprisingly little reflection on how greatly Arab oil and Arab constituents influence the EU/UN political agenda regarding the Middle East.
Seth, US

Are British and American security experts really required to ensure that six people don't escape from a compound which is sealed off and surrounded by enemy artillery, snipers, heavily armed infantry, and patrolled by helicopter gunships? Short of digging a moat round the compound, I'll be fascinated to learn what we can add to the security provisions already in place. Will the lifting of this siege help to reduce tension in the Middle-East? I'm sure it will - probably for several hours.
Chris B, England

There is no solution that can come from the US. The Israeli political and propaganda network in the US is too strong. Only through tough economic sanctions can movement be made.
Ray Wilson

It is quite interesting to see that on the day Arafat agrees to concessions and moves towards peace, Sharon starts new incursions into Palestine. Sharon has so far been the one stopping all efforts made to reach a peace deal.
Anthony, London, UK

Once again it's Britain and America that have to sort out everybody's problems!

Raj, Bradford, UK
Once again it's Britain and America that have to sort out everybody's problems! Can the French and Germans ever help? Or anyone else for that matter?
Raj, Bradford, UK

The only way to ease tensions in the Middle East is for the Israelis to get back on their side of the fence.
Simon Creighton, Australia

This is a move forward but what will happen when either Israel bombs the prison or Palestinian mob attacks it? I take it that the US and UK guards are expendable?
Mike, England

The plan to free Arafat will work. As regards easing of tensions in the region, this will only come about if Arafat at long last does what he should and stops the terror attacks on Israeli citizens. Let's hope he uses this opportunity to prove he wants a lasting peace.
Bob Umpleby, Israel

This will end up being one step forward and two back - Sharon will still want the suspects to be tried within Israel rather than under Palestinian law. Even free, Arafat won't agree to this - and we will be no closer to easing the crisis.
Shaz Imam, UK

An eventual solution can only come about if the West is seen as even-handed in this conflict

Guy Liddell, UK
Whilst such steps are helpful, an eventual solution can only come about if the West is seen as even-handed in this conflict. Can we expect those behind Israel's campaign to be similarly treated? Sadly, I think not - even though these activities effectively derailed the peace process, such as it was.
Guy Liddell, UK

This is nothing but a gimmick. Time and time again we have seen Israel "pull out" of occupied areas, only to return the next day. We have seen them "free" Arafat only to capture him again. We have seen so many false dawns in the region that I don't think we'll ever have peace there until the last Israel and the last Palestinian kill each other.
Anonymous, England

This is political bargain which confirms tensions, it does nothing to ease them.
Thomas, UK

There are some incorrect assertions in this forum. Whereas Sharon is democratically elected and has to respect the collective Israeli will to stay in power, Arafat doesn't. Indeed Arafat has dictated his people's will to them for too long now, and brought nothing but misery. Sharon knows that now he has managed to halt the bombing campaigns he has to produce a peace plan - this has been the will of the Israeli people since Oslo. Arafat, however, upon his release has suggested no such thing - just blatantly made accusations against Israel for his own failures. I agree with one of the members of the forum that the only party that can bring balance at this stage is Europe which has to (for once) take the moral high ground and stand with the US instead of basing its decisions on Arab oil.
Richard, UK

See also:

29 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel moves into Hebron
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