With the resignation last week of Mahmoud Abbas from his post as Palestinian prime minister, the so-called peace process between Palestinians and Israelis is in tatters. This is a semi-permanent state of affairs: whenever hopes are raised, they are assuredly shattered. It is clear that Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, who maintains ties with militant groups such as Hamas and who blocked Mr Abbas' efforts to rein them in, is an obstacle to a permanent solution to the conflict. Yet Israeli efforts to marginalise him, confining him to his compound and refusing to deal with him, have not moved the two sides any closer to peace. Now, Israel's security cabinet has decided to remove Mr Arafat, although it is not entirely clear by what means: exile and assassination are possibilities that have been raised. The frustration of the Israeli side is understandable, considering the recent spate of suicide bomb attacks on its civilians. But, as countless government leaders and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan have said, ousting the democratically elected leader will not further the cause of peace; indeed, any action against Mr Arafat can only further inflame the already out-of-control conflict. The approval of the plan to get rid of Mr Arafat came, ironically, on the 10th anniversary of the peace agreement struck between him and former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. That agreement, known as the Oslo accords, was marked by a handshake on the White House lawn. The deal was meant to be a guarantee of peace and security for the Israelis in return for progress towards an independent Palestinian state. Since then, the process has been marked by repeated failure, on both sides, to live up to the bargain. The renewed hope brought by another US-brokered plan introduced just months ago has also evaporated. For their part, the Israelis want to lay the blame at Mr Arafat's feet. The Palestinian leader has proven himself a terrible peacemaker, someone far more adept at personal survival, political posturing and battlefield rhetoric than at the subtleties of statecraft and diplomacy. But most Israeli leaders - notably the present prime minister, Ariel Sharon - have also failed to distinguish themselves as peacemakers. The blame for the continued failure of the peace process lies with both sides. Now, Israel wants to remove a man who, for all his faults, remains the Palestinians' most revered leader. He is both their elected president and an emblem of their hopes for their own state. As fragile and hopeless as the peace process now seems, removing Mr Arafat will do nothing but kill it off completely. The large and spontaneous demonstrations at Mr Arafat's compound and elsewhere after Israel's decision underline the strength of Palestinians' feelings for their leader. Any action to remove Mr Arafat now will thwart any hope that the new Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qorei, might be able to form a cabinet and begin to inch towards peace. Mr Qorei was endorsed by Mr Arafat but he is a committed moderate who seems willing to work for peace - and seems to know how hard that will be. Progress will depend on his ability to negotiate with and win concessions from both Israel and Mr Arafat. From Israel, he will need guarantees of an end to the rising tide of retaliatory violence and reasonable borders for the fence Israelis insist on building to separate themselves from the Palestinians. From Mr Arafat, he will need co-operation in disarming groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Mr Qorei will have no chance of accomplishing any of this if the Israelis go ahead with their thuggish plan to exile, if not assassinate, the man many Palestinians look to as their head of state and their representative to the world.