TEL AVIV (Jul. 17)
Likud hard-liner Ariel Sharon called Monday for the assassination of Yasir Arafat and other leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Speaking to reporters on a visit to the Golan Heights, Sharon said he would be prepared to support demands from the Defense Ministry for a $200 million supplemental budget if he was assured the security forces would “eliminate the heads of the terrorist organizations, and first of all Arafat.”
His remarks, which made big headlines here, were immediately criticized by Labor Party politicians and officials in Washington.
Sharon, who was defense minister during the war in Lebanon, is minister of industry and trade.
Touring the town of Katzrin, he told reporters Monday that he had asked at the Cabinet on Sunday how the Defense Ministry proposed to utilize the additional funds it sought.
“I asked how the proposed budget increase was to bring about the end of the violence and terror” known as the intifada, Sharon said.
“This must be done before any negotiations,” he said, “and this should include the killing of the terror organization leaders, and especially the master butcher, Yasir Arafat.”
If that is acted upon, Sharon said, he would support even larger increases in the defense budget.
He was chided later by Mordechai Gur, a Labor Party minister without portfolio and former Israel Defense Force chief of staff.
Noting that while he was defense minister Sharon had opportunities to get rid of Arafat, Gur said, “Talk is cheap and easy, but Sharon has not acted on his own proposals.”
In Washington, Deputy State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday that “U.S. policy is to support a de-escalation of violence in the Middle East — not an escalation of violence.”
If Sharon’s remarks are true as reported, they “would obviously not help in that process,” he said.