Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Expelling or eliminating Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat would only enrage the Arab and Muslim world, Secretary of State Colin Powell said over the weekend.
Calling the Palestinian leader an "obstacle" to reconciliation, Israel announced last week that it would "remove" Arafat at a time of its choosing, a comment that prompted an international outcry.
Over the weekend, Palestinians continued hold street demonstrations in support of Arafat in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They vowed to protect their beloved leader.
Israeli-Arab lawmakers, as well as a handful of Israeli Jewish activists, also closed ranks around Arafat. One prominent activist, Uri Avnery was quoted as saying he would be willing to "serve as a human shield" to prevent the murder of Arafat, apparently to serve the cause of peace.
Speaking from Baghdad, Powell said that Washington does not support eliminating or exiling Arafat. "It's not our position; hasn't been. The Israeli government knows it," Powell said.
"And I think the consequences would not be good ones. I think you can anticipate that there would be rage throughout the Arab world, the Muslim world, and in many other parts of the world. And I don't see how, at this delicate moment that would serve the case of moving forward on the road map."
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Ehud Olmert became the highest ranking Israeli official to openly say this weekend that Israel's decision to "remove" Arafat was not limited to exiling him. "Killing Arafat is definitely one of the options," Olmert said.
Housing Minister Effi Eitam said in a media interview that the expulsion of Arafat was only a matter of time. "We shall not accept and we shall not negotiate and we shall not let this man to remain here in power at the end of the process....It is a question of planning and finding the precise timing...The question is not 'if' but 'when.'
The U.N. Security Council is due to vote on Monday on a resolution put forth but Arab states forbidding Israel from exiling Arafat. But despite all the bluster, as of Sunday, only one Arab nation - Syria - had called to personally express its support for Arafat.