Photo Credit: Wissam Nassar/Flash90
Man looks up at a mural depicting Yasser Arafat

Liran Baruch, who was injured in combat while serving in the IDF, discovered recently that the Israeli-Arab municipality of Jatt in the “Arab triangle” east of Hadera features a street named after the late terrorist and PLO commander turned Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Baruch told Army Radio last Friday that a friend of his had run into the street name while using the GPS app Waze, and both were very upset over the idea that an Israeli town would commemorate this despicable man.

Baruch has since appeared on several news shows on radio and TV, speaking on behalf of his fellow disabled vets, demanding that the offensive street signs be removed. Meanwhile, another street, in a different Arab town, was discovered to have been named after an equally offensive enemy of Israel: Haj Amil al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and a good friend of Adolf Hitler’s.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night posted on his Facebook page: “I heard about the struggle of IDF disabled vets against naming a street after Yasser Arafat in the local council Jatt in the northern Sharon region. I talked about it with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, particularly because his ministry did not approve [the street naming]. In the state of Israel we will not name a street after Arafat – and we will take steps to remove the sign.”

To which the head of the Jatt municipality, former MK Muhammed Wattad responded, telling Army Radio on Sunday, “I regret that the prime minister was forced to interrupt his busy schedule to deal with a street named after Yasser Arafat in the small community of Jatt.”

“I understand the political pressure and stress he is under in the rightwing camp,” Wattad continued. “We will accept his appeal, examine it according to the law and act accordingly.” Wattad also explained that “as far as we’re concerned, Yasser Arafat was a leader.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu shaking hands with Chairman Arafat / Photo credit: Moshe Milner (GPO)
Prime Minister Netanyahu shaking hands with Chairman Arafat / Photo credit: Moshe Milner (GPO)

Many comments on the PM’s Facebook page supported his statement, but many others also wondered why he chose to ignore all the other problems (different lists cited in each comment, but many featuring child poverty, battered elderly, hungry Holocaust survivors and police brutality) – to give such high priority to a street name no one had known about before last Friday.

Then there were the inevitable comments about that famous 1996 picture of Prime Minister Netanyahu shaking hands sincerely with the Chairman from Ramallah at the Erez crossing in Gaza, and the other handshake from 1998, when Bibi gave most of Hebron to the Chairman, and the Camp David handshake when Bibi, Arafat and President Clinton were offering the Chairman the moon. So that, really, coming down on an Arab municipality for naming a street after the PM himself respected quite a bit seems a tad pot-calling-the-kettle-blackish.

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