Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced yesterday (Saturday) that he will work to remove a street sign in the northern Israeli-Arab village of Jatt that is named after Yasser Arafat, former Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority.
The street name attracted public attention following the complaints of a group of wounded IDF veterans.
Liran Baruch, a paratrooper who was wounded in action during an operation in Kalandiya, told Channel 10: “A friend of mine who went to serve in reserve duty near the village of Jatt noticed on Waze a street named after Yasser Arafat. He pointed this out to me right away, and I wrote a post on Facebook about it and notified the CEO of the Im Tirtzu organization, Matan Peleg.”
Im Tirtzu subsequently helped the wounded veterans pen a letter to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and bring the matter to the public agenda.
The Interior Ministry released a statement in response, stating that they were unaware of the street’s existence: “The Interior Ministry did not approve naming the street in Jatt after Yasser Arafat and such a request was never submitted to the Ministry.”
In a post on Netanyahu’s Facebook page, he wrote: “I heard about the wounded IDF veterans’ battle against calling a street after Yasser Arafat in the Jatt regional council that is in the northern Sharon. I spoke with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri about the matter, and he clarified that the Interior Ministry had not given any authorization.”
Netanyahu added, “No street in the State of Israel will be named after Arafat – and we will work to remove the street sign.”
Muhammad Tahar Wattad, head of the Jatt regional council, denied prior knowledge of the street’s existence, but added that he is not opposed to the street name: “From our perspective [Arafat] represents the official leader of the Palestinian people, with Israel recognizing him as a partner for negotiations. Therefore there is no legal, social or moral prohibition to name a street after him.”
Wattad also added that “whoever calls him a mass murder should take responsibility for his words.”