No smoking gun

 

Cui bono? Who benefited from the 2004 death of Yasser Arafat ? With the publication of the report of a group of Swiss scientists which “moderately supports the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210”, a new frenzy of theorising about the death of the Palestinian Authority president has resumed in earnest. “No other cause to explain the onset of the symptoms could be identified,” the report says.

Too many may well have had an interest in his death, and there is precious little evidence pointing at any of them. If he was murdered the chances are that we will never know who did it. But that won’t stop the speculation in a region more prone than any to conspiracy theory.

Widow Suha Arafat, who campaigned for his exhumation, has always blamed political colleagues in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) leadership. “I’m sure it’s someone in his close circle,” she told Reuters.

Most Palestinians will instinctively blame Israel. It has form, means, few scruples about such methods, and despised Arafat, rejecting his latter-day peacemaker image as a fraud. Over a year before his death, then deputy prime minister Ehud Olmert had even mused aloud on radio about options for dealing with Arafat: “Expulsion is certainly one of the options. Killing is also one of the options.”

Yesterday Israel was firmly denying any hand. But a default Palestinian position of disbelieving anything emanating from that quarter means the report will certainly inject a dangerous mistrust and uncertainty into attempts by US secretary of state John Kerry to revive a barely living peace process.

And then there’s the possibility that the “killing” was the work of cronies embroiled in his notoriously corrupt administration. Or the Russians? Polonium-210 is, after all, known to be Moscow’s weapon of choice with which its agents killed ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko in London seven years ago. Or what about the Americans? The list may go on ....

The problem is, no smoking gun.

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