Next week is the ninth anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death at the age of 75 in a French hospital following a two-week hospitalization. Samples from his remains have recently been exhumed from his grave in Ramallah and sent to a forensic lab in Lausanne, Switzerland which reported "unexpectedly high levels" of polonium-210. The experts say this "moderately supports the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210."
His widow Suha Arafat, who would only seldom appear at his side when he was alive, now wants the international community to investigate his death. Nasser al-Kidwa, his nephew, apparently does not need a inquiry to tell him what happened. He already knows Israel killed his uncle.
This saga was supposed to make Israel a defendant in the court of international public opinion. But it appears that things are not going as planned. A Russian team was also asked to probe his death. According to Russia's Federal Medical-Biological Agency chief Vladimir Uiba, polonium poisoning was ruled out as a cause of death.
Didn't Arafat have cancer?
This latest twist is strikingly familiar to the Muhammad al-Dura case and the false reports surrounding the death of the 12-year-old Gazan in 2001.
If Arafat, who had been holed up in Ramallah towards the end of his life, was poisoned to death, then who did it? Did a foreign agent break into his room? Did his trusted chef betray him?
There are many questions. How is it that the Russian team found no traces of polonium but the Swiss team had a different conclusion? Could it be that someone who had access to the body placed the poison after death, to frame the Jews in a Palestinian variation of the blood libel some Christians propagated about Jews killing European children to make matzah?
Many parties would benefit from having the story of Arafat's poisoning stick. This would create the myth that he was a hero who not only fought for the Palestinians but died on their altar. The current story has no heroics involved.
But those who are behind this are politicians who want to extract political mileage. They have already asked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to halt talks with Israel, as if Israel had already been found guilty.
Israel must prepare a contingency plan in the event that Arafat story sabotages peace negotiations. In 1994, when then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Arafat arrived in Egypt to sign the Cairo Agreement, the Palestinian leader created a ruckus on stage when, at the last minute, he changed his mind and refused to sign part of the deal. This prompted then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to yell at him, "Ya kalb [you dog], sign already!"
Assassinating a foreign leader, even if he is an enemy, in unbecoming for a sovereign state that is waging a legitimate war. Israel would be well-served if it welcomed a measured international inquiry. It should condemn such alleged poisoning. Such acts are a double-edged sword. There are no grounds to justify Arafat's poisoning, even if Hillel the Elder's saying applies. When Hillel saw skulls of plunderers floating down the river, he said: What you did to others by making them drown in the river will ultimately be done to you.
Arafat will forever be the founding father of the Palestinian nation, until its very last day. Whether or not an investigation takes place is immaterial. For Jews he will forever be that skull in the river. The peace we all yearn for will not be inhibited by conflicting historical narratives.