Now we finally know who killed Yitzhak Rabin. Not Yigal Amir, as you thought. It was Fuad and Sharon and Peres and Bugi Yaalon. This was revealed to us by Gush Shalom, in a giant ad published in Monday’s Ha’aretz, in large type. The ad read: “The same finger on the same trigger: Those who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin are now assassinating Yasser Arafat.”

Gush Shalom is Uri Avneri and a few others. In his article on Monday in this section, Avneri said the same thing, but in a less provocative and extreme fashion [see INT September 23 part 2]. “Morally,” he wrote, “the murder of Arafat, the historical leader and elected president of the Palestinian people, is a heinous act. Like Rabin’s assassination.”

The premise that murder is a heinous act can certainly be agreed to. But does this definition of atrocity also apply to the elimination of terrorist-murderers, their leaders and their dispatchers? This point is disputable. And Arafat, the “elected leader” of the Palestinian people, is a dispute in and of himself. But in any case, the comparison between him and Rabin is an infuriating one. And this ad should be protested, even by leftists.

It is clear that an ad is not an article, and if it wishes to draw people’s eye and convey a message in 15 words it must be sharp, focused and even provocative. The question is the limits. It is clear that the “same finger on the same trigger” does not refer to Yigal Amir, nor, conversely, to the Labor Party ministers or the chief of staff. The ad refers to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and is in fact accusing him of the murder of Yitzhak Rabin. Not incitement, not inflammation, not causing the murder-but actually pulling the trigger.

I know, this is supposed to be a sharp metaphor for what Avneri wrote in his article. Words that will shock and cry out and prevent murder, in the eyes of Gush Shalom. But it is precisely metaphors and words such as these that have already killed, as the ad itself in fact says. Sharon “assassinated Yitzhak Rabin,” as the ad clearly implies, is no less severe than “Rabin is a traitor” and “he deserves the punishment of a rodef [person endangering others]” and presenting him in a photomontage with a Nazi uniform. If the people who said those things about Rabin are considered those who assassinated him, in the eyes of Avneri and his friends, than the people who say about Sharon the things that were written in the Gush Shalom ad should be considered people who might bring about his assassination. If incitement is murder, than this is true for both sides.

Only few people in Israel still think like Avneri, that Arafat is still relevant and a partner with whom some sort of arrangement can be reached. Even many in the Left have despaired already of the deceptive Arafat (a typical expression of Yossi Sarid). Among the Palestinians as well, who understand his part in the suffering they are being caused, there are quite a few who wish that he would disappear from the leadership. Around the world, especially in the US, the perception is beginning to take root that there is more of a chance without him. This is one of Sharon’s few successes, with the extremely active assistance of the PA chairman. It can only be said that Arafat has come by his present status honestly.

Many Israelis would like Arafat to be removed to the next world, but it is politically incorrect to say so. So people speak of the chairman evaporating, being neutralized, disappearing, and other ambiguous expressions.

I am willing to agree with Avneri that Sharon would also desire the physical elimination of Arafat, but reality proves Avneri’s opinion notwithstanding that even the prime minister understands that this is impossible and will cause irreparable damage to Israel’s interests. He has even refrained from removing Arafat from the region. Had Sharon wanted to carry out these two actions at any price, he would have had sufficient opportunities to do so in his various positions over the past 20 years. Therefore, Avneri’s cries of “Murder! Murder!” are excessive, and the ad is a self-inflicted wound for the “peace camp”.

This piece ran on September 25th in Maariv