Israeli sources: No, of course we didn't poison Arafat

Privately, Israeli officials hold to the same general line. There have been none of the winks and nudges that follow reports of assassinations that its officials (sometimes being quoted by name) go so far as to publicly welcome. The Hebrew language press has repeated reports that senior Israeli officials more than once discussed trying to kill Arafat — accounts that security sources confirm to TIME. But officials said the suggestions were always rejected.

Palestinians nonetheless believe nothing else. The only debates on the Ramallah streets this week was whether the Israeli security services – who routinely and relentlessly solicit ordinary Palestinians to work as informants – had used a member of Arafat’s inner circle to deliver the fatal dose. At the time he fell ill, Israeli armor had pinned the Palestinian leader inside the rubble of Ramallah’s muqataa complex for more than a year. The Israelis sent in food, and decided who would visit. But poisoning Arafat’s chicken and rice was problematic, Israeli officials noted: Palestinians often eat from a communal plate, and if everyone had their own plate the PLO chairman was famous for pushing handfuls of his serving toward the mouths of visitors, insisting they share.

Still, a fatal dose could come in the form of a pill, or a drink. (Litvinenko swallowed his in a cup of tea served at a luxury London hotel.) And the list of possible suspects extends beyond trusted aides to the diplomats and other guests Israel permitted to visit the trapped leader. “Look, the Israelis did not enter the room he was in, so it must have been a jasus [Palestinian agent of Israel] or a foreigner who came to visit him at the time,” surmises Safa Ismiel, 27, of Nablus, a city north of Ramallah on the West Bank.

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