November 3, 2004
ARAFAT'S HEALTH: THE FUTURE MAY BE 'EVEN MORE CHAOTIC' WITHOUT HIM
** Without Arafat, "internal disunity" among Palestinians could "lead to a civil war."
** Israeli and conservative writers opine that a "new opportunity will arise" for peace.
** The post-Arafat era in the PA should focus on "domestic political change and reform."
** Palestinian dailies wish Arafat a "fast recovery and a safe return."
'Power struggles' will 'surely intensify'-- Because other potential leaders lack the "historical legitimacy" to "consolidate power," the "power vacuum" could incite an "eruption of fratricidal violence" among Palestinians. The "danger of a civil war is looming," said one German observer, while Montreal's centrist La Presse foresaw an "'Afghanization' of the Palestinian lands, bled by a handful of warlords." A "prolonged power struggle" would plunge the Palestinian Authority (PA) "into chaos and anarchy," warned those editorialists who added that Hamas' "extremist wolves" will move to seize power in the PA.
New leaders may abandon 'rigid and rejectionist' politics-- Arafat critics saw a "brighter possibility" for peace because his absence "provides a new generation of PA leaders the chance to emerge." Russia's centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta predicted a "new Palestinian leadership with no links to terrorist organizations"; Brazil's right-of-center O Globo also "glimpsed a gap for peace" with "more pragmatic" leaders. Israeli outlets agreed that the conflict is "on the brink of a turning point" with Arafat, the "obstacle to any settlement," gone. The conservative Jerusalem Post said that this crisis "represents an opportunity" for the PA to "confront and dismantle the terrorist hydra created by Arafat."
A 'relatively peaceful transition' is needed-- Observers blamed "Arafat's autocratic leadership" for both the PA's "rampant corruption" and delaying the "inexorable transition of power" and stressed the "need for reform" in the "dictatorial and corrupt" PA. Beirut's moderate Daily Star noted Arafat's "unfortunate tendency to keep...power closely concentrated"; Saudi Arabia's pro-government Arab News assailed his "reluctance to delegate authority." Other Arab dailies urged "immediate elections" to end the "one-man rule" that resulted in "virtual anarchy." Euro dailies labeled Arafat "simply a politician who has failed," whose "egoist and almost autistic" policies have made an independent Palestine "wishful thinking." France's left-of-center Liberation concluded that Arafat's "personal authority has disintegrated" since his "disastrous" Camp David decision "in favor of an armed Intifada over peace."
The 'symbol of contemporary Palestinian patriotism'-- Palestinian outlets took Arafat's "speedy recovery" for granted. Independent Al-Ayyam predicted that the "the first political battle that the President will have to face after his recovery is his return" to the West Bank, which, if allowed, will become another "political victory." Other writers also hailed Arafat's "toughness and strong spirit."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 69 reports from 27 countries over 28 October - 2 November 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "After Arafat"
An editorial in the independent weekly Economist read (10/30): "One grim possibility on Mr. Arafat's death is therefore that the divisions in Palestinian ranks will come to the fore, making the prospects for peace even worse. The hard-line Islamists of Hamas, already strong in the Gaza strip, may feel less constrained about mounting an open challenge to Mr. Arafat's mainstream Fatah movement.... There is, however, a brighter possibility. The death of Mr. Arafat could at a stroke deprive Israel of the reason--some would say the excuse--it has given over the past two years for suspending negotiations with the Palestinian Authority."
"How Will Gaza Survive Sharon's Plans Without A Leader To Hold It Together?"
Johann Hari commented in the center-left Independent (10/29): "If Gaza shatters into competing armed gangs with no legitimate government, then there is little hope of progress. I find it impossible to identify a figure other than Arafat with the historical legitimacy to hold Gaza together in the immediate aftermath of a withdrawal. Is there anyone else who could gradually persuade the various armed gangs to become absorbed into a single state?"
FRANCE: "The Post-Arafat Era Has Started"
Pierre Rousselin wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (10/29): “The Palestinians are right to feel jittery: it will not be easy to turn the Arafat page.... None of those who have lived in his shadow can hope to take over without accentuating feelings of jealousy and running the risk of a civil war. For the past three years the Israelis, with the complicity of the Americans, have done everything to get us where we are now.... For the Israeli Prime Minister, as well as for the next President of the U.S., it will not be enough to reiterate that Arafat is an obstacle to peace. They will need to make concrete proposals and return to diplomacy. Everyone was so eager to be in the post-Arafat days, that now that they are upon us the world seems to be unprepared.... To avoid chaos, consultations will need to take place with the Palestinians. The American will need to get involved. Caught as they are in the Iraqi quagmire, in the midst of a presidential election, the Americans themselves have been caught unprepared. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is re-emerging as a priority at the worst possible time. France’s diplomacy, which has always chosen to remain faithful to Arafat, will need to play a role.... This is an opportunity to explain France’s choice, which has often been misunderstood.”
Patrick Sabatier noted in left-of-center Liberation (10/29): “Arafat’s health is a source of concern for the Arab world and all world leaders worried about the Middle East tragedy. This is the Arafat paradox: when his health is at its worst, the man suddenly takes on more importance...although for all intents and purposes he has stopped presiding over the Palestinian authority.... His personal authority has disintegrated under Sharon’s blows but also since his disastrous choice at Camp David in favor of an armed Intifada over peace.... Every attempt to get rid of Arafat, the Palestinian people’s totem, has failed. His succession is half-opened because of his illness. But everyone fears that the future without Arafat may be even more chaotic than with him.”
GERMANY: "Piety And Tactics"
Business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf declared (11/1): "Everybody would like to examine Arafat, but this is not about sympathy, it is cold tactic. It does not matter whether the information gained are right. It is only important that one can benefit from it. This holds true for the Palestinian government, the PLO and the Israeli cabinet. The Palestinian politicians have their eyes on sinecures and posts. Arafat's succession has been fought over for some time. Who can make most of the current hour? Asking a different question would be hypocritical. And it does not reflect piety when Jerusalem now says that it would not use Arafat's hospitalization to launch new military operations in the occupied territories, as the Palestinian leader has been declared irrelevant long ago. Who cares about his personal fate? And we must assume that political reason stands behind President Chirac's mercy."
"Arafat's Pajama Is A Chance For Peace"
Miriam Hollstein commented in right-of-center Die Welt am Sonntag of Berlin (10/31): "Last week, the public has seen Yasser Arafat, Israel's archenemy, as a fragile old man in a blue pajama and a bonnet. Arafat has never before taken off his combat uniform, with which he symbolized that he understands himself as a revolutionary and not a statesman. Why did Arafat allow these pictures? At the end of the day, the blue nightgown is nothing else but a white flag. The developments in Israel mirror Arafat's departure; the hardliner and father of the settlement movement, Ariel Sharon, pushed through his plans in the Israeli parliament to remove Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. The situation is difficult on both sides. Sharon is confronted with his party and fanatic settlers, and on the other side the militant Hamas is waiting for Arafat's collapse to make use of the power vacuum. But we might still be seeing the greatest chance for peace that the region has seen since Camp David.... A situation has arisen that makes changes possible. That means a lot for the Middle East."
Gemma Poerzgen observed in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (10/30): "A power vacuum was created that opens up chances and poses risks.... It will require talent, responsibility and courage to manage the difficult transition. The political elite in Ramallah seems to understand this and is holding talks about the future. Former government leader Abbas is often mentioned. He stands ready to play a decisive role and is securing support in his camp and on the international level in these days of his comeback. It is a good sign that Prime Minister Qureia has agreed with Abbas to organize the change together.... But there is a great danger of chaos and rebellion if Israel continues its tough military operations in the Gaza Strip. The situation there is anarchic; armored gangs are waging their private wars.... Israel's government must not erase the weak plant of a Palestinian new beginning. Prime Minister Sharon has a decisive role to play in the question whether Arafat's successor will be a moderate politician or one who continues the war against Israel."
"The Eternal Revolutionary"
Heikeo Flottau said in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (10/29): "The revolutionary Arafat missed the opportunity to put an end to the violent protests of his people. The second intifada, which Sharon provoked by his visit to Jerusalem's Temple Mount in September 2000, might have been successful if Palestinians had just continued throwing stones. But because Arafat never put a stop to the military violence--Hamas' terror acts in particular--the territories, which Israel had handed over to Palestinians as a result of the Oslo Accord, were reoccupied. Arafat's greatest mistake is that he shuns democracy and wants to create a police state. Arafat himself is a devout Muslim, who feels no hatred against Christians and Jews. One of his few sentences, which are not marked by blunt political slogans, shows tolerance and understanding. In front of the UN in 1974, he said he must fight political Zionism, but he respects the Jewish faith. Even if he survived his illness, he has lost his political fight. An iron wall divides Israelis and Palestinians. Arafat's successors will not see it falling for decades and Arafat's desired state will remain wishful thinking for his people."
"What Will Be After Arafat"
Pierre Heumann argued in business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (10/29): "Because no one has the stature to fill Arafat shoes, there will be a collective leadership, representing all camps and interests of Palestinians, as heterogeneous and contradictory as they might be. The internal disunity will have foreign policy effects. It will be impossible for Palestinians in a post-Arafat era to find a compromise with Israel. They will certainly not become more moderate. Without the integrative figure of Arafat, Palestinians will wear themselves down in a power struggle. The danger of a civil war is looming."
"The Sick Man Of Ramallah"
Karim el-Gawhary observed in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (10/29): "In order to prevent a destructive dynamic, the best solution would be to create a leadership of national unity and to hold elections, in which all groups are allowed to participate, including Hamas. The international community could not ignore such an elected leadership, which would be capable of promoting a truce to start negotiations with Israel. The talks could not be torpedoed by the claim that they lack legitimacy. The condition would be that Israel is interested in serious negotiations about a Palestinian state and the withdrawal from occupied territories. But the indications are that Sharon's government is just hoping that Arafat's death would further weaken Palestinians."
"Rivals In A Power Struggle"
Dietrich Alexander held in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (10/29): "The only people prepared for Arafat's death are Israelis who are just getting the plans out of their draws and prepare themselves for a civil war-like situation in the Palestinian territories. Although Arafat has been weak and isolated for some time, he guaranteed some sort of order and stability through his reputation among Palestinians. If he dies, hell will break out, because he has failed--like many Arab leaders before him--to establish a successor during his lifetime. In an egoist and almost autistic way, he thinks he is immortal and indispensable. It has not been his strength to share power, make compromises or conduct dialogues. He still wants to rule, although he is lying in his deathbed. In an irresponsible way, he acts like he does not care what comes after him, allowing his people to plunge into chaos and anarchy; many hands will try to get a grip on power after he died. Arafat, the respected leader and honored President, must nominate a strong successor. That would help, but it would still not guarantee that the chosen candidate wins the power struggle against the many rivals. The Palestinian people will suffer most from this power vacuum and will disunite. Arafat has not put his house in order. He should repair this if he still can. He owes this to his people."
Clemens Wergin observed in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (10/29): "Arafat's worst mistake in his long life as politician was Camp David. Instead of accepting the olive branch President Clinton extended to him, he started--or at least did not prevent--the second intifada, this terrorist rebellion. He has sent his people into a fight that they cannot win and isolated himself politically. Not just Sharon is to blame; Arafat's loneliness is the result of his own policy.... Like so many revolutionaries, Arafat did not manage to become a politician. He forced a dictatorial and corrupt government on his people, and he will only leave office in a coffin--like some many Arab leaders before him. Arafat, who has achieved a lot for his people and caused serious difficulties for them at the same time, will be remembered best in the words of former President Clinton as a man who has neither said no to peace nor did he agree. Even if Arafat survives this crisis, the time when he accomplished positive results for his people is over."
ITALY: "After Arafat Comes The Fog"
Bernardo Valli noted in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (10/29): “Ramallah’s prisoner has played another tough game in the last 48 hours. This time he didn’t have tanks sitting outside his residence, nor was he being subjected to one of Ariel Sharon’s warrants or threats. This time he is facing an illness that could prove to be fatal. But even on this occasion...what emerged was the importance of the fact that he is still alive, and how much his death will weigh. One of the immediate consequences (of his death) could be, for example, a halt to the Gaza withdrawal plan put forth by Ariel Sharon and recently approved by the Knesset. It was designed and presented unilaterally by the Israelis, without consulting the Palestinians. Arafat was no longer considered an effective interlocutor. But to exclude his successor would mean excluding all Palestinians.... Will the Israeli government be able to find effective interlocutors? After Arafat comes the fog.”
RUSSIA: "End Of Checks And Balances?"
Yevgeniy Satanovskiy commented in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (10/29): "The whole system of checks and balances may collapse after Arafat quits politics. It rests on him entirely. No person is privy to complex relationships among Palestinian special services and organizations that are in control of finances. Few know where Palestinian money is. It is enormous sums running into billions of dollars. Arafat's death may lead to a civil war in the Autonomy. Yet there is a chance that those three by Rais' deathbed will be able to take over some of his leverage. They may become the nucleus of a new Palestinian leadership with no links to terrorist organizations."
"Arafat's Dying Bad For Sharon"
Grigoriy Asmolov and Mikhail Zygar declared in business-oriented Kommersant (10/29): "After Yasser Arafat's death, the ongoing power struggles in the Palestinian elite will surely intensify. The incumbent's associates Messrs. Qureia, Abbas and Zaanun are not popular. Not so young politicians who are eager for power.... The worst thing that may happen is for radicals, especially Hamas, to gain strength as they try to take advantage of the power vacuum.... Arafat's death may cause more problems for the Israeli Prime Minister. One of the key arguments for his Gaza withdrawal plan is that there is no one on the Palestinian side with whom to conduct a constructive dialogue. Both Jerusalem and Washington call Arafat the chief obstacle to the peace process. With the PA leader gone, the plan will lose much of its urgency. Under the circumstances, Sharon will have either to wait for the Palestinians to get a new leader, turn the withdrawal into a part of the peace process, or give it up altogether and get back to the Roadmap, as demanded by the international community. Given that, Ariel Sharon must see his sworn enemy die now as untimely and unfortunate."
AUSTRIA: "The Non-Partner Drops Out"
Foreign affairs editor Gudrun Harrer wrote in independent Der Standard (11/2): "For the Palestinians, Arafat is a symbol of nationalism and resistance--but in the final analysis he is also simply a politician who has failed.... What is more significant in the long run is the question of which consequences Arafat's demise--whether physically or politically--will have for the Israeli Prime Minister's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, which he got approved by the Knesset last Tuesday.... Perhaps the Palestinians will relieve Sharon of all respective considerations by fighting against each other, which would make the Palestinian regions sink into still greater chaos and strengthen the extremists, thereby justifying the quarantine. However, with Arafat's end near, one may be allowed to briefly lose oneself in a dream scenario: Sharon is waiting to unroll the roadmap with his Palestinian partners with the aim of soon creating a Palestinian state within provisional borders and after that negotiate speedily the issues of borders, Jerusalem, refugees, water and everything else."
Stefan Galoppi stated in mass-circulation Kurier (10/29): "If the symbol of the Palestinian fight for freedom should now die, it would turn out that previous attributions of blame were too easily made and that it was not just Arafat who stood in the way of peace. It will take a long time for a successor with a comparable capacity for integration to emerge. In the four years of Intifada and three years of actual arrest for Arafat, a tangle of difficult-to-control interest groups and private militia has formed. The worst-case scenario is a power struggle that could culminate in a war among Palestinians. Faced with the threat of a war among Arafat's heirs in the autonomous territories, Ariel Sharon could be tempted to once again postpone the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip that he just pushed through, and lament once again that there is no partner for peace anywhere in sight - and this time he would be right. One thing is clear, however: Any leader who succeeds in getting a majority of Palestinians behind him, will never be a convenient negotiating partner for Israel."
BELGIUM: "Arafat Is Likely To Die In Exile"
Foreign editor Yannick Hallet contended in the Sud Presse group--conservative La Meuse/La Capitale (10/29): "It is unlikely that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will allow Arafat to come back, even if Israeli officials are saying that he will, and this for three reasons. The first is that Arafat is ruling without sharing power, which means that his exile will lead to the genuine emergence of new rulers and would probably trigger a war of succession, creating chaos among Palestinians. The second reason is that if Arafat died abroad, it would be less risky for Israeli soldiers, because Tsahal is afraid that it would be held responsible for the deterioration of the health of Arafat because of the confinement in which it has been holding him three years. That is why Israel is afraid of violent clashes during the mourning period. Lastly, Arafat has in the past stated that he wanted to be buried on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, i.e. just above the Wailing Wall. That is unacceptable to Tel-Aviv. With Arafat's remains being abroad, Israel is in a position of strength to negotiate the location where he will be buried."
Philippe Martin asserted in Catholic Vers L'Avenir (10/29): "Yasser Arafat loved power so much that the President of the Palestinian Authority never accepted to share it and forgot to prepare his succession. When he will pass away, his departure will plunge the Palestinians--and the entire Middle East with them--into a struggle with an unpredictable outcome. For better or worse."
IRELAND: "Politics In Dark"
Michael Jansen wrote in the center-left Irish Times (10/29): "The autocratic Arafat has made himself indispensable in political life, to the point where his departure creates an unthinkable vacuum.... A unifying figure, he has always dictated policy and managed competing factions and personalities within the PLO and the authority. Without his firm guidance, the authority could well collapse into chaos, given that most of its stalwarts belong to the group of unpopular exiles who returned with him to the Palestinian territories back in 1994.... Hailed as ‘Mr Palestine’ by his people, he also enjoys more support than any of the other personalities in his entourage.... The death of Mr Arafat could, however, lead to a violent factional power struggle which could shatter Palestinian unity and disrupt the work of the government.... Israel and its ally, the U.S., could be expected to welcome Mr Arafat's departure from the political stage. They blame him for failing to clamp down on the violence of the second intifada, which erupted in 2000. Since that time, they have argued that for as long as Mr Arafat remains at the helm of the authority, Israel has ‘no partner’ with whom they can negotiate, therefore the peace process can not be resumed. Mr Arafat is the only Palestinian leader with the charisma and the solid political standing to deliver if a negotiated settlement is to be achieved. He is also looked upon as the only figure who can exert some control over the Islamist opposition, represented by the Hamas and Jihad movements, and the rebellious cadres of Fateh's military wing.”
NORWAY: "Yassir Arafat"
Independent Dagbladet commented (10/29): "The disinformation and secrecy is another illustration of the problems that plague the Palestinian government and demonstrates one of several downsides of the inheritance after Arafat. Arafat has always been part of the solution for the Palestinians, but also a large part of the problems.... The worsening of Yassir Arafat’s health over the past few days signals the end of his era. Those who think that a change in leadership will make it easier to make the Palestinians accept solutions anywhere close to what Sharon now wants to force through over the next two years, could prove to be catastrophically wrong. Once again. Yassir Arafat is guilty of bloody terrorism, but so are the leaders of Israel. Real peace can only be achieved when the will is there from both sides to return to the fair solution that was being negotiated when President Bill Clinton left the Presidency, the winter of 2001.”
SPAIN: "Without Successor"
Left-of-center El País editorialized (10/29): "The worsening of Arafat's health and his imminent move from Ramala to a hospital in Paris has put the Palestinians, Israelis, and the entire world in front of a tragic reality: he has no successor. Among other reasons, this is because the President of the Palestinian Authority has not let anyone overshadow him, and has prevented what should have been a necessary generational reorganization. But his leaving from the Mokata closes, if not an era, at least a stage: his resistance now looses sense.... Bush wants nothing to do with the problem, giving a carte blanch to Sharon; if Kerry wins, his new administration will take time to get to work (on this issue). A horizon of instability has been opened.... What is advisable, in the case of Arafat's death, is to continue with the formal governmental rules and let the President of the Assembly assume control to call elections in six months, even in the worst conditions.... Is not easy for someone to achieve the personal and historical authority that Arafat has, which is needed to make Palestinians accept a peace that, if it arrives someday, will demand important concessions by both sides."
"The Problem Arafat"
Centrist La Vanguardia opined (10/29): "Anticipating the judgment of history is a dangerous exercise...but Arafat can't be denied historical clarification in his relationship to the right of the State of Israel to existence and his formal renouncement of terrorism. It is evident that, at minimum, he has often built an insurmountable barrier to the continuation of the peace process. His moral and charismatic leadership cannot be denied, but less certainty (of leadership) exists regarding his dealings with corruption and his inability to delegate. Due to his irreplaceable leadership role, is very probable that he has not been held up to the standards that are applied to other political leaders.... It's probable that Arafat's disappearance will cause fratricidal fights to compete for the Palestinian leadership, but it's hard to understand a stagnation worse than the President."
"What Will Happen If Arafat Dies?"
Independent El Mundo declared (10/29): "An open fight among factions would be a serious setback for the Palestinian cause. Paradoxically, Arafat's death would also damage Sharon. The lack of a clear negotiator would reinforce the hard wing of Likud that refuses to accept the retreat plan from Gaza."
Conservative La Razon remarked (10/29): "Arafat's 'illness' has unleashed the most dismal omen over the future of the region. Once the 'strong man' dies, fraternity will shatter, and even the most naive people are expecting the worst.... The worst has yet to come. Unless Washington, Brussels, and Moscow impose on Tel Aviv the 'peace of brave people'."
ISRAEL: "Arafat Is Dying, Terror Lives On"
Alex Fishman wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (11/2): "Arafat could be a vegetable or even dead. As far as Palestinian terrorism is concerned, that hasn't mattered for a long time now. External forces that are far stronger than the Palestinian Authority now operate in the territories, and grease the wheels of terror with money and know-how. The suicide bomber committed his acts of murder in the market irrespective of the rais's blood count.... The Lebanese group that coordinates the terrorism in the territories--headed by the Israeli Arab Hizbullah agent Kais Obeid--has been applying immense pressure to produce large numbers of terror attacks inside the Green Line. The deterioration in Arafat's health has encouraged them to intensify the pressure even further so as to prevent a situation of governmental stability that might afford reaching a political solution with Israel. These 'Lebanese' folks, some of whom are former Israeli Arabs, cannot understand why the Palestinian organizations in the territories find it difficult to manufacture terror attacks at the desired pace. They simply haven't been here for a number of years: they don't understand what the smart electronic fence, coupled with adequate and intelligent military activity in its vicinity, has done to the volume of terror. We've grown used to foisting all blame on Arafat. Old habits die hard. But if we want to find a solution to the independent gangs of terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, we need to complete the construction of the fence--giving Enveloping Jerusalem top priority--and to reconcile ourselves to the fact the correct address is not in [Ramallah's] 'muqata' or Paris, but in Lebanon."
"An American Horizon Needed"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (11/1): "It seems no region in the world is awaiting the outcome of the American presidential election the way the Middle East is. This is a region that has hurt the U.S. and felt the force of its arms many times during President Bush's four-year term.... The Bush administration's welcome and unreserved support for Israel in the face of Palestinian terror was frequently also perceived as permission to reject every diplomatic initiative until the baseline conditions of the region had changed. Bush made do with dictating the limits of the permissible to Israel in the tactical realm, and he never realized his vision. On the very eve of the U.S. elections, it now seems that the baseline conditions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at least, are on the verge of changing. On the Israeli side, Ariel Sharon is fighting against extremist political rivals to anchor a new ideology that advocates the evacuation of settlements, while on the Palestinian side, Yasser Arafat, who until now has been perceived as the principal obstacle to progress in negotiations, is gradually disappearing from the scene. It is possible that this conflict, which has known more disappointments than hopes, is once again on the brink of a turning point. Such a junction would necessitate the mobilization of a determined U.S. government, which will want to reexamine the policy of shrugging its shoulders that has characterized it for the last four years."
"Behind Arafat's Mask"
Akiva Eldar opined in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (11/1): "For as long as the present-absent partner [Arafat] was there in the Muqata, the road map, never mind civil initiatives like the Geneva accords and the Nusseibeh-Ayalon agreement, were non-starters.... Abu Mazen is no less faithful than Arafat to the decision by the Palestinian National Council in1988 concerning the solution to the refugee problem and a withdrawal to the
1967 borders. No Palestinian leader has the authority to give up a single centimeter of the West Bank--except in the context of a one for one exchange of territory--or Haram al Sharif (Temple Mount). Bitter disappointment and great disaster await anyone who is wishing for a Palestinian leader who has a likeable face that hides a new reality and that beams with a magic solution to the bloody conflict."
"Living With Him"
Nahum Barnea argued in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (11/1): "The official response from Sharon to the changes in the Palestinian hierarchy is correct. The government of Israel ought neither to endorse nor to embrace any candidate. It will examine the new Palestinian leadership based on its actions. But the real test is not in the formal statements but in the daily actions. Sharon erred when he ignored the chief of staff's recommendations and refused to help Abu Mazen while he was prime minister. There was a critical delay in Israeli good-will gestures that could have improved his standing slightly in the public's eye and could have preserved the initial popularity of the Abu Mazen government. Now Arafat's ailment has given Sharon a second chance.... Abu Mazen's chances of success depend to a great extent on the U.S., Europe and Israel. First of all they are dependent on him. At the age of 69 he needs to prove to his colleagues in the Palestinian leadership that he is not only a nice and congenial man: he is also an energetic leader who hungers for power, is determined and trustworthy."
The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post concluded (10/31): "On Saturday, the PLO Central Committee met for the first time in 40 years without its chairman, Yasser Arafat. We do not know if Arafat will recover from his mysterious illness, much less attempt a return. We do know this: that empty chair at the PLO table represents an opportunity for the Palestinians, Israel, and the region.... Though Arafat has symbolized Palestinian power, he more accurately represented his people's helplessness.... The Palestinians' 'friends' will likely return to the refrain that only Israeli concessions will give the new leadership the power to fight terror. The opposite is closer to the truth. Only when the world stops buying Palestinian excuses will a new leadership be forced to confront and dismantle the terrorist hydra created by Arafat. Another myth we would like to preemptively puncture is that Arafat should be succeeded by a benevolent strongman. Let us not forget that the premise that personalities mattered more than democratic rule was tried with Arafat and failed miserably. Both Israel and the U.S. acted as if it did not matter how much power was concentrated in one man's hands, so long as that one man was ready for a deal. He was not, and what came was not peace, but a gruesome and protracted war.... What matters is allowing the Palestinian people to decide whether they want to continue their war to destroy Israel or to take control of their own destiny, in peace, alongside us. After Arafat, the choice is in Palestinian hands."
"Toward A New Era"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (10/29): "The shock waves that Yasser Arafat's illness has sent through the Palestinian leadership are also a reason to hope that a reshuffle at the top of the Palestinian Authority will largely do away with the old claim that there's no partner for talks. The Palestinian leadership, feeling its way toward a new era, ought to be presented with a similar demand. It must grasp that the disengagement is an opportunity to reach talks with Israel. Such talks, naturally, would deal at first with agreed-upon arrangements for the transfer of power in Gaza. The unilateral disengagement would thereby be transformed into a coordinated security-political maneuver that leads -- it is to be hoped--to a renewal of the peace process. The 'no partner' thesis was also the consequence of rigid and rejectionist Palestinian politics.... The phrase 'new era' should not be devalued by over-use, but it would appear that a possible window on it opened this week. The opening has to widen. A stable Israeli majority has long been waiting with bated breath. Only a firm tread of the sort displayed this week, making judicious use of the political and public help at the Prime Minister's disposal, will give that possibility a real chance."
"In The Muqata, At Arafat's Bedside"
Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (10/29): "Very few Israelis will miss Yasser Arafat, but very many Israelis will have to redraw their worldview when he ceases to be a part of it. Since 1957 he has been part of our lives, our hatreds, our curiosity, part of the desperate attempt to create some sort of understanding where an abyss gapes. Critically ill or dead, from this week onward Arafat is not what he once was. Palestinian history will have to move on without him. And so will we, the Israelis. The man who was a devil in the first act, a partner in the second act and a villain in the third--is departing. He will not be the obstacle from now on, he will not be the excuse.... It is convenient to see him as a mere crook, a person who attempted to deceive a series of leaders in Israel and around the world, and did not spurn any lie for this purpose.... But beyond the deception was a worldview. He viewed himself as the embodiment of Palestine. He was the ethos. He was the myth. His career, which is reaching its conclusion now one way or another, included many ups and downs, but no concession on what he saw as the main issue: the right of return, the control over the holy sites and the foothold in Jerusalem. This ethos is the infrastructure that Arafat leaves behind to his successors, and it is also the chains that shackle them."
"Back On The Road Map?"
Aluf Benn contended in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (10/29): "Efforts to persuade either President George Bush, the incumbent, or the challenger, Senator John Kerry, to renew American involvement between Israel and the Palestinians will be significantly boosted with the passing of the man who has been described as the obstacle to any settlement or compromise.... Now a new opportunity will arise, especially if Arafat's succession turns out to be a moderate who is accepted by Washington, such as Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). The U.S. will have to consider whether to gamble again on a Palestinian leader in a suit and tie, who this time will be free of the threatening shadow of the Chairman.... The next president will not easily be able to ignore calls for the renewal of American involvement. The Europeans have made it clear that revival of the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians is part of the price that they will demand in return for an upgrading of relations with Washington."
"The Scene, Post-Arafat"
Barry Rubin asserted in the conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (10/29): "In a sense, Arafat has poisoned the atmosphere to such an extent that it might take years to clean it up. The identification of moderation with treason, the cult of total victory, and the promotion of vicious hatred and incitement are difficult to reverse.... Given the intense rivalry for power, leaders are likely to avoid a dangerous moderation. Offering compromises or concessions, acting in too friendly a manner with the U.S., trying to stop terrorism, and seeking to quiet incitement are the kind of actions likely to bring down the wrath of numerous, well-armed militants on anyone who acts dovish.... Hamas is not going to take over. As Fatah leaders compete for power, many will be tempted into an alliance with Hamas to put them on Arafat's throne. This would give Hamas a veto power over any future political arrangements, which would be the nail in the coffin of peace hopes.... But at least there will be the possibility of change, a situation which does not exist now and, as we now know, has never existed before with the Palestinian leadership."
"Arafat--End Of The Road"
Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe declared (10/29): "As Arafat leaves the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, on one hand there is an opening for the resumption of connections between Israel and the Palestinian government, but on the other hand one cannot ignore the fact that Israel is facing an internal revolution in the PA--toward a 'civil war,' whose conclusion and repercussions on relations with Israel are difficult to foresee at this time.... Current events at the Muqata require a revision of the Israeli government's policy, including the unilateral pullout from Gush Katif [in the Gaza Strip], despite the apparent lack of connection between the two issues. Such a connection exists."
WEST BANK: "President's Health Condition: Any Israeli Developments?"
Samih Shubayb asked in independent Al-Ayyam (11/1): “The Israelis...gloated over the news of the President’s ailment. Polls indicated that the [Israeli] majority wishes his absence be permanent. In addition, Israeli FM Silvan Shalom could not hide his hatred and inhumanity when he stated that Israel hopes to return to negotiations with Palestinians once Arafat is dead. With the intervention and pressure of presidents of other states, mainly Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, PM Sharon agreed to let President Arafat leave the country. Yet Israel agreed only in principle, without giving any written assurances...that the President will return to the Palestinian land once he recovers and his health goes back to normal.... It will take a certain political battle since Israel has doubts about his ability to manage the authority and will attempt to extort certain guarantees in return. The first political battle that the President will have to face after his recovery is his return, which will undoubtedly form a political victory for him and will help him win other internal battles.”
"Isolated Israeli Position"
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (11/1): "The hostile remarks Israeli officials continue to make against President Arafat and the Palestinian people, particularly since the health of the President began to deteriorate...show not only the amount of hatred the Israeli government has toward the Palestinians and their legitimate leadership, but also the extent of Israel’s isolation, and that of its policy, in the international arena.... The international concern about President Arafat’s health, his treatment and guaranteeing his return is another evidence of Israel’s isolation. Even Secretary Powell, whose administration has taken positions against the Palestinians including boycotting Arafat, has phoned the Palestinian FM to ask about the President’s situation and to express his satisfaction with Israel’s decision to allow Arafat back.”
"Toward Recovery And A New Horizon"
Adli Sadiq contended in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (11/1): “Sharon most likely sees Arafat’s ailment as an opportunity to say that the coast is clear in terms of dealing with the Palestinian leader. Allowing President Arafat to travel for treatment and guaranteeing his right of return mean that Sharon no longer sees the possibility of implementing his plan without a Palestinian partner and knows that that his determination to keep his plan a unilateral one will lose him those forces that support reconciliation.”
"Please Wait...Just A Little"
Abdallah Awwad opined in independent Al-Ayyam (10/31): “It’s true that there is more than one political school on the Palestinian scene...but it’s also true that there remains a general tendency toward democratizing all the political factions and getting back to democratizing the political system.... No one wants Abu Ammar to leave. It is still early for that. We need you to stay, to come back from Paris tomorrow or the day after so that you re-arrange the Palestinian house and say out loud: ‘Here I hand over the mandate with which I was entrusted my entire life.’ Please wait just a little until those who hate you and those who love you understand that you will leave us after a while.”
"The President's Stature"
Rajab Abu Sariya wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (10/29): "Yasir Arafat is basically the symbol of contemporary Palestinian patriotism and is an embodiment of the remaining popular aspiration to establish an independent state.... He still is sticking to his broad and fixed [policy] lines to the point where he is sacrificing his life and health for their sake, as he has done ever since entering bravely into confrontation with the Israelis. He has remained at Muqata’a [his headquarters] despite facing all the occupation’s threats like any ordinary citizen.... There he is now, bearing alone on everyone’s behalf the weight of responsibility and the burden of confrontation, while all we can do is pray that he gets well soon.”
Independent Al-Quds editorialized (10/29): "Those who took a hostile position toward President Arafat, throwing out all sorts of false accusations against him and refusing to deal with him on the pretext that there’s no Palestinian partner to negotiate with...did not hesitate to facilitate President Arafat’s medical treatment. In this context, the Israeli government announced that it doesn’t mind his travel for treatment abroad or hospitalizing him outside Ramallah. It tried to show the world a fake humanitarian concern, as it knows very well that the harsh siege it imposed on Arafat--depriving him of light, fresh air and exercise--have caused his ill health...and added to the psychological pressure he has to bear as a result of the occupation.... Worst of all are the reports circulated by the Israeli media on the President’s health, as they can’t wait for him to die. Their wish is that whoever replaces him will be more submissive to Israeli dictates.”
Basim Abu Sumaya concluded in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (10/29): "The media have not dealt humanely with the President’s...health problems, which were caused, among other things by the Israeli siege imposed on him for four years.... We all wish him a fast recovery and a safe return to his homeland and people, for no one except Abu Ammar can serve as a guarantor for the Palestinian cause at every level.”
SAUDI ARABIA: "Arafat"
The pro-government English-language Arab News maintained (10/29): "There is an immense sense of relief not only among his people but around the world that this icon of Palestinian resistance will get all the medical care he needs. Welcome also is Israel’s assurance that Arafat would be free to go back to Ramallah after treatment.... The assurance that he can return may have a great bearing on Arafat’s will to fight for recovery. For almost four decades Arafat has symbolized both the best and worst of Palestinians. He represented more than anybody else their will not to surrender his people’s right to their patrimony.... But for his indomitable will and ability to snatch survival from the jaws of certain destruction, if not victory from certain defeat, it is doubtful if the Palestinian struggle for self-definition would have persisted. He also symbolized some of the worst aspects of the Palestinian struggle that, many believe, have contributed to the tragedy that Palestine is today. His reluctance to delegate authority...has had the result of reducing the entire Palestinian struggle, its government, its political organizations and socials movements to a one-man show. Whatever his intentions, the result has been nepotism, corruption and denial of rights to his people.... So tied has become Arafat’s image to the Palestinian cause that many find it hard to envisage Palestine without him.... Contrary to common assumptions, Palestinians have a pool of talent from which to select their future leader. The only way to do that is through elections--genuine ones.... True representative leadership emerges only when popular choice is not manipulated. To get an idea of what happens when it is, one has to only look at the virtual anarchy that rules Palestine now."
JORDAN: "Reviving The Peace Process"
Musa Keilani wrote in the elite, English-language Jordan Times (10/31): "The Palestinian struggle for independence is facing yet another crisis. This time, it involves personalities, following Yasser Arafat's departure from the West Bank for treatment in France.... Indeed, no one disputes his status as the symbol of the Palestinian cause and struggle and his position as the leader of his people. However, it is increasingly dawning on the Palestinian people, as well as Arabs and others who support their cause, that there is need for reform.... Arafat was in no position to rein in Palestinian groups waging armed resistance.... The entire Palestinian police force is in shambles as a result of Israeli attacks that destroyed police stations in the West Bank and Gaza.... The Palestinian National Authority led by Arafat exists only on paper.... Everyone expected a struggle for power among Arafat's top deputies in his absence.... However, it is indeed time that Palestinians worked on designating a successor.... The situation does not allow room for any such differences at this critical point in time when the fate of the struggle faces immense pressure from people like Sharon.... It is clear that the era of Arafat remaining in absolute control of Palestinian decision making is over...with no shift whatsoever in the quest for a just and durable solution based on the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people that should never be compromised, irrespective of whether Arafat remains in physical charge or not."
LEBANON: "The Last Stop"
Sateh Noureddine opined in Arab nationalist As-Safir (10/30): “The Palestinians did not take to the streets by the thousands, not many Arabs called for prayer or sit-ins, and not many foreign countries showed concern despite the fact that Arafat is struggling with death.... Concern was limited to a small circle of Palestinian brothers and friends...and sadness was limited to a number of supporters who ranged between 55-60 years old. Outside this circle, people were thinking that it is time for Arafat to relax (die) and leave his people alone and give the authority to a younger generation.... The fragile memory of this new generation did not remember that Israel is the reason behind Arafat’s sickness.... Their memory did not also remember that the U.S. encouraged Israel to blockade Arafat and remove him from authority.... This generation does not comprehend the fact that Arafat’s death means...that there will be no more hope to regain Jerusalem ands return to the June 4th lines.... This generation does not also comprehend that the fate of the struggle with the west is decided in Jerusalem."
"Honor Arafat By Reforming The System He Created"
The moderate English-language Daily Star editorialized (10/29): "The health status of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat...inevitably focuses attention on the future implications of his possible departure from the political scene.... The political health of the Palestinian society that Arafat has governed almost single-handedly for decades is the deeper issue that preoccupies Palestinians. His health problems focus attention on his personal role in Palestinian politics at a time when the overall condition of Palestinian society is very difficult.... Today this movement is badly hobbled due to a series of reasons that can be attributed to Israelis, Palestinians, Arab states, the U.S. and other concerned parties.... Yet the most striking problem that Arafat and his leadership have endured in recent years has been the growing chorus of calls for domestic political change and reform from fellow Palestinians.... Arafat's later years have been marked by his unfortunate tendency to keep political, economic and security power closely concentrated in his hands.... Depriving his people of a wider political experience has been a main reason for Palestine's difficult condition today, with Israeli occupation and assault combined now with indigenous Palestinian autocracy and one-man rule. The best way to honor Arafat and his legacy...would be to actually implement the domestic political, economic and security reform promises that he has repeatedly made to his people, but has never put into practice.... Arafat remains the only Palestinian leader with the credibility and legitimacy to instigate serious reforms.... This remains a long overdue right of his people."
"What If Arafat Is Absent For Natural Causes?"
Sarkis Naoum asked in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (10/29): “When we asked a prominent official at Fatah Movement about what might happen if Arafat dies for natural causes, Arafat’s health was not a source of serious concern...however, the answer was clear. His absence will not lead to a civil war among the Palestinians...because Palestinian officials believe that if they engage in a civil war...they will be playing right into Israel’s hands and will put an ending to the Palestinian cause. Obviously, confusion might take place within the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah movement, but this will lead to decision that would respect the Palestinian cause and protect it.”
QATAR: "Arafat The Victorious"
Taha Khalifa wrote in semi-official Al-Raya (10/31): “Arafat looked very tired when they put him on the French plane on his way to Paris to start his medical treatment. This might be the end. However, Arafat has again amazed the world with his toughness and his strong sprit. Arafat, even in his weak condition, did not give Sharon the chance to defeat him. Abu-Ammar, for the last 3 years, has been standing with his head held high even thought he was under siege. Sharon knows that Arafat is the key to the Palestinian issue. The lesson now is for the Palestinian factions. They should all unite against the Israeli attempts to isolate the Arafat due to his health condition. Arafat was not defeated in front of Sharon because the Palestinian people were not defeated. Arafat is victorious because of his people.”
UAE: "After Arafat..."
The English-language expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times stated (11/2): "The Palestinians are rightly concerned over President Yasser Arafat's health. The people in the occupied territories are worried not only about the health of their leader, they are also preoccupied with the haunting questions about their own future.... While the concern for Arafat's health in the Palestinian territories and the Muslim world is understandable, the Palestinian leader's absence has underscored the urgent necessity of looking for his successors. There is no questioning Arafat's contribution to the Palestinian movement. With his fierce resolve and fighting spirit, the Palestinian leader has come to symbolise and embody the spirited Palestinian struggle for freedom. However, Arafat unfortunately failed to groom a leadership that could take over from him. Having concentrated all decision-making powers in his own person, the Palestinian leader has resisted all attempts to delegate responsibility to others.... Also, Arafat has miserably failed to stem rampant corruption.... These circumstances call for an alternative leadership to take over from Arafat.... The Palestinian leader...must share power with younger and honest leaders.... Yesterday's reports of some Palestinian leaders making efforts to revive the peace initiative with Israel are encouraging.... Of course, the occupying power's bullying tactics have rightly evoked the contempt of the Palestinians. But the Palestinians do need an alternative leadership who could get them justice and stand up to the occupying power. It is time for Arafat to pass on the baton."
"Faced With The Solemn Truth"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf News held (10/29): "With uncertainty surrounding the health of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat the question suddenly being asked in the Middle East and probably the corridors of the White House is: what of the future? While it seems almost obscene to be speculating on such an issue when there is no clear indication on how critical is the health of Arafat, equally it is a pressing question that cannot be avoided and is rife with speculation. The issue of succession is the one subject that will not only cause the most disagreement among Palestinians, but may ultimately result in violence as one faction tries to prevail over another. Besides religious sects, there are diametrically opposed views on how the dispute with the Israelis should be resolved. These vary from annihilation of all Jews to the formation of one state embracing both nationalities. It is rumoured that in preparation for his demise, Arafat named a triumvirate to take charge. If this is so, then Arafat will know his legacy will be one of chaos, since it is not possible for a group of three leaders to rule equally history has shown this to be so. The best way forward is for the oft-postponed presidential and general elections to take place, allowing a franchise to all resident Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Then, once the truly democratic process has taken place it will be known that the successor to Arafat is, indeed, the people's choice. It is an irony that with Arafat in a parlous condition many Israelis are now fearing the future. For they realise that the situation could become worse as the central stabilising factor in the Palestinian National Authority may no longer be there to rule and any internal power struggle could bring down the PNA, necessitating international intervention."
AUSTRALIA: "Arafat’s Ills Pick Up Pulse Of Peace"
Nicolas Rothwell observed in the national conservative Australian (10/29): “A script for a new peace settlement hovers into view.... Without Arafat--who has made the cause of Palestine, rather than a nation, and who has made his refusal of compromise a mark of his integrity--the optimists and the pragmatists, long silent in the region, have a chance once more at least to dream.”
CHINA (MACAU SAR): "Arafat's Illness Reveals The Issue Of Finding A Replacement"
Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (10/31): "Arafat is still a great leader of Palestine. He has devoted his life to peace in Palestine. Because of his age and social pressures, Arafat's health continues to get worse. In recent years, the rumors of corruption and no progress have been made in the Middle East peace process, and his popularity has dropped. This has directly threatened Arafat's leadership. In order to prevent 'a power vacuum' once Arafat dies and to carry out a stable transition, Arafat should make use of the opportunity while recuperating from his sickness to arrange for power transfer. He should support new leaders and let the younger generation show their capabilities."
JAPAN: "Power Vacuum In PA"
Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri said (11/2): "Following Arafat's trip to Paris to receive medical treatment, his deputies from the PLO Fatah section have been forming a group leadership in the PA. However, there is no legal ground to legitimize such collective leadership. Critics say Fatah is trying to establish its rule within the authority as a fait accompli. Doubts have also emerged about the effectiveness of the collective stewardship."
"Israel Should Not Give Up Peace Proposal"
Liberal Tokyo Shimbun argued (10/29): "The Gaza disengagement plan, approved by the Knesset, envisions the withdrawal of only four minor settlements from the West Bank. The Sharon government appears to be hoping to permanently maintain the rest of the 120 or so settlements. The plan is partly aimed at reducing massive defense expenditures used to protect the 8,000 Israeli settlers living in the tiny Gaza strip with its Palestinian population of 1.3 million. The token move to give up Gaza comes at the same time as plans to expand Israeli territory by constructing more separation walls in the West Bank. The plan pays no attention to the Palestinian plight.... If Arafat resigns because of poor health, the Palestinian leadership would be thrown into confusion. Prime Minister Sharon must tie the pullout plan to the roadmap."
"Efforts Needed To Achieve Peace"
Liberal Mainichi editorialized (10/29): "The Israeli parliament's approval of a plan to cancel Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip is a welcome step. However, the disengagement plan only refers to four areas out of some 120 settlements in the West Bank. Without the removal of such settlements, no peace is likely between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Middle East conflict cannot be resolved without dialogue.... The two sides must respect the roadmap proposed by the U.S., U.N., Russia and the EU. The mediators should immediately resume serious diplomatic efforts to put the derailed roadmap back on track. Their role is increasingly crucial to maintaining a peace framework following Palestinian leader Arafat's rapidly worsening health."
"Power Struggle Set To Start"
An editorial in liberal Asahi read (10/29): "Despite the rapidly deteriorating health of Arafat, no immediate candidates have emerged to succeed the 'phoenix of the Middle East.' The Palestinian Authority is meanwhile expected to adopt a group leadership. However, with the reported difference of opinion between younger and older generations, and between radical Hamas and the PLO Fatah faction, the power struggle is likely to become more pronounced. Tight control of information on Arafat's health suggests attempts by the current leadership to check moves by factions vying for power."
INDONESIA: "Arafat And Regeneration Of Palestine Leadership"
Christian-oriented Sinar Harapan commented (11/1): "Given Arafat’s old age and health condition, the Palestinians now need a process of regeneration of their leaders to continue his leadership. Arafat himself has begun the process by appointing new ministers and cabinet members, thereby reducing the authority he has thus far held.... The question is who among them can take a moderate and accommodative position as Arafat has thus far shown without sacrificing the struggle of the Palestinian people for an independent state, coexisting peacefully with Israel in the future.”
"Yasser Arafat is Like A Candle For Palestine And The World"
Independent Harian Merdeka commented (11/1): "What kind of leader do the Palestinians expect after Arafat? It will be a difficult option because not all Arafat’s successors are independent of external influence, the U.S.’ in particular. Arafat is the only Palestinian leader who can control two fronts: the domestic front who wishes for a Palestinian state without coexistence with Israel; and the foreign front, the U.S. in particular, who wish Palestine coexist with Israel.... Above all, Yasser Arafat has managed to maintain Palestinian, the oldest civilization in the world. The Palestinians will not easily vanish under Israel’s oppression because the two peoples come from the same ancestors.”
"In His Health And Illness, Arafat Awes People"
Leading independent Kompas observed (10/31): "It is no wonder that many people are worried about the worst possibility of Arafat’s health condition. There are concerns that Arafat’s departure will create a vacuum and a leadership crisis.... Indeed, Arafat represents a personification and icon for the Palestinian struggle. But Palestine is not identical to Arafat because many other Palestinian leaders will appear and play important parts in its history.... Therefore, the struggle of the Palestinians will continue even if Arafat passes away. The sign is clear. The spirit for the resistance movement is still high despite Arafat’s weakening health and old age.”
NEW ZEALAND: "Arafat's Successor"
The moderate Christchurch-based Press held (10/30): "The sudden illness of Yasser Arafat has cast into sharp focus the question of his successor.... Until now these issues must have seemed academic as Arafat had led a charmed life.... His recent marginalisation by Israel and U.S., had, if anything, strengthened his popularity among Palestinians. The decision for him to leave his headquarters to seek medical attention in France, however, suggests that his illness is serious and that issues of succession must be addressed. The optimistic scenario, if Arafat dies or is incapacitated, would be that a strong leader emerged with a mandate; one who could unite Palestinians and bring about change. Since signing the Oslo Agreement in 1993, the Palestinian leader has become regarded as untrustworthy and unreliable by both Israel and the U.S. This is due to their belief that the former terrorist did not have the fortitude to embrace the opportunities for peace presented to him, and that he is unwilling or unable to curb the incessant suicide attacks within Israel. Strong leadership might also lead to a rethink of Israel's hugely divisive withdrawal from Gaza, as the rationale for this is its inability to deal with Arafat. The problem with this scenario is that Arafat's autocratic leadership style has meant that there is no obvious successor. Arafat deliberately refrained from grooming his replacement for fear that this person might become a challenger to his own authority. If Arafat does not survive his illness there is, therefore, the potential for a debilitating power struggle for the authority's leadership. As it is, the authority has problems of credibility. Many Palestinians see it as corrupt and faction-riven.... Part of the tension is between the old guard of leaders...and younger figures who never left Palestine and seek reforms.... Then there is the possibility that Hamas might not accept another Fatah leader. Far from providing the solid leadership with which Israel might engage, there is the distinct possibility of a power struggle and an end to even the token efforts of the authority to control terrorism. Israel might be right to believe that Arafat has been a major part of the problem, but the alternative could prove far worse."
THAILAND: "End Of An Era In The Mideast"
The lead editorial in the top-circulation, moderately-conservative, English-language Bangkok Post read (11/1): "Mr. Arafat is 75, and he will be replaced for now by a technocratic Palestinian leadership. No one has Mr. Arafat's charisma, personal reputation or, probably, ability to force his will upon reluctant and often violent Palestinian factions. Yet the departure of the ageing Mr. Arafat is only a matter of time. It is likely he never will regain the power he has held, although he may return to become a figurehead leader and national leader to his region and the inevitable Palestinian homeland that will emerge. Israel and the world must tread carefully. It is possible that extremist wolves in Palestinian clothing will try anything to seize power. In the best result, however, the incapacity of Mr. Arafat will provide a new generation of Palestinian Authority leaders the chance to emerge. There have been no meaningful talks between the Palestinians and Israel or the road-map group of the U.S., the EU, the UN, and Russia. The vote of the Knesset to move settlers out of the Gaza Strip and back to Israel proper is an opportunity the Palestinians can now seize in order to try to advance out of their four-year stalemate.”
INDIA: "An Irreplaceable Leader"
An editorial in the centrist Hindu read (10/30): "The sudden deterioration in the health of the PA President, Yasser Arafat, has occurred at a most inopportune moment. The charismatic leader of the Palestine liberation movement was flown to Paris early on Friday for life-saving treatment of an illness that is yet to be diagnosed. His departure from the scene took place just after Israel's cabinet and parliament approved Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for unilateral disengagement.... The Palestinians and their well-wishers round the world hope that Arafat will come out of this health crisis with the same resilience he has demonstrated in politics. The Palestinian President has detractors even among those who support the struggle of his people. However, for all his faults, no one can take away from him the credit for a phenomenal achievement. Chairman Arafat, more than anyone else, has kept alive the dream of national renewal in the hearts and minds of his people. A man who has sustained the spirit of a nation that was broken, dispersed and suppressed deserves the esteem of freedom-loving people all over the world."
The centrist Kolkata-based Telegraph asserted (10/29): "It takes a great deal of disorientation to think of Ariel Sharon as the harbinger of peace. But his evident determination to start the withdrawal of Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip forces the world to do precisely this.... What the Islamists celebrate the Zionists resent. So, the danger of civil war in Israel is quite real as outraged settlers, theocratic rabbis and the nationalist far-right unite to regard Sharon, hitherto their champion, as suddenly turned public enemy number one. And the centre and left in the Knesset--the opposition Labor and the secular Shinui parties--find themselves part of an imminent coalition of the willing headed by the prime minister.... Pragmatist or traitor, visionary or villain, Sharon has been brought around by the compulsions of history to make such a statement in the Knesset. While their leader lies mysteriously ailing in Ramallah, his successors uncertain, it is up to the Palestinians as well to make sure that what Sharon holds out to them turns out to be an olive branch."
BANGLADESH: "We Pray For Arafat’s Immediate Recovery"
Large-circulation Bangla-language Ittefaq stated (10/31): "The Palestinians are naturally concerned about the illness of Yasser Arafat. Israel took precautionary measures in the West Bank and Gaza because it thinks there might be trouble in these areas if Arafat expires. Israel has not ensured that Arafat will be allowed to return after his treatment. Arafat remained in virtual captivity in Ramalla since 2001 because he is no longer an acceptable Palestinian leader to the U.S. and Israel. Whatever attitude Israel has about Arafat, the reality is that he is still the symbol of Palestinian unity. He has been leading the distressed Palestinians both at home and abroad for 37 years. He is the Chief of the Fatah Group and the PLO is the only recognized and legal organization of the Palestinians. So there is no way to remove Arafat’s interests from the Palestinians’ and that is why we pray for his speedy recovery."
CANADA: "The 'Old Man' From Ramallah"
Mario Roy noted in French-language centrist La Presse (10/29): "Nearly everyone wished for his departure...if not his assassination, as was heard a few times from the Israeli side. Now that he is threatening to die, it is the prospect of a political vacuum--and possibly of an eruption of fratricidal violence--that we must contemplate. Especially since the man was very careful not to prepare his succession. And given that, already, the 'Palestinian street' is agitated by power struggles, the intensity of which hasn't stopped increasing over recent months.... By one of History's coincidences, the Palestinian leader is failing at the moment when.... Ariel Sharon, 76 years old, obtains the go-ahead from the Israeli Parliament for his plan to withdraw from the Gaza strip by the Fall of 2005.... However, given the present circumstances, it mainly serves to underscore the need for a Palestinian power able to operate in a unified, complete and safe manner in this eventually 'liberated' territory. There is no such power. For Palestinians, it is not a new problem, obviously. But it is likely that the disappearance of the 'old man' or his final retreat from political life based on incapacity, will worsen things still, at least in the short term. Indeed, even if the document used as a constitution by the PA provides for a succession process (including elections at the end of a 60-day period granted to an interim government), it all seems, in light of the facts, desperately theoretical. This political uncertainty is coupled with a real instability on the ground, where rival movements, including the highly popular Hamas, are clashing, sometimes violently. There also exists a nightmarish vision of the immediate future: that of an 'Afghanization' of the Palestinian lands, bled by a handful of warlords, without the emergence of a leader strong enough to consolidate a central power. In short, for very different reasons, Arafat and Sharon today push the unending Israeli-Palestinian conflict toward a turning point. Another one. It just so happens that...in five days, a new President might be elected to the White House.... All this being said, and armed with a crazy optimism, can we believe that a changing of the guard is underway that, after short term jolts, would lead to the prospect of peace in the Middle-East?"
"After Arafat, What?"
The leading Globe and Mail maintained (10/29): "Now that the ailing Mr. Arafat has been taken to France for emergency medical treatment, there is a considerable risk that Palestinians, already suffering from the violence and bloodshed of a four-year intifada, the absence of genuine authority and internal turf battles, will face a prolonged power struggle and a lengthy political vacuum as various militant groups, including Hamas, jockey for control. Mr. Arafat's own ruling Fatah movement is rife with corruption and deeply divided, Palestinian institutions are weak or non-existent, and no other individual can lay claim to Mr. Arafat's hold on the popular imagination. To avoid such a bleak future, Palestinians need to rally behind credible moderates willing to let the ballot box determine their future.... Under the PA's own basic law, the parliamentary speaker is designated to stand in for 60 days if Mr. Arafat dies or is too ill to resume his duties. The next step is supposed to be a national election to select a new president. The Palestinians will eventually have to face the task of governing themselves effectively. Until they do, they will have no chance of realizing their dream of living in peace and freedom in a new independent state."
BRAZIL: "The Unique Ability To Speak In The Name Of Palestinians"
Center-right O Globo opined (11/1): "Arafat’s replacement...has always been one of the greatest question marks in the Middle Eastern political scenario. How could one find in the Palestinian ranks someone who would at the same time have--as he has had--the unique ability to speak in the name of the Palestinian cause and to be listened to by Israel? The withdrawal of this legendary guerrilla and political chief due to health problems, gives this inexorable transition of power a sense of emergency--especially because it takes place at the same moment of the Gaza withdrawal plan...that divides Israel...and of the most polarized presidential elections in the recent American History.”
"A Symbolic Point Of Convergence Of The Palestinian Cause"
Center-right O Globo editorialized (10/29): "Yasser Arafat has not died yet. But it is clear that he no longer is in a condition to be more than a symbolic converging point of the Palestinian cause.... Those who used to see this stubborn survivor as the fighter who moved to the political side, may foresee a less pessimistic scenario. Although they agree that his bad choices have made him miss his ride on the streetcar of history and have condemned him to physical isolation, they glimpsed a gap for peace in his withdrawal from the scenario. Because more pragmatic leaderships, such as Abu Abbas and Ahmed Qorei, would take over the political process and make the Palestinians visible to discuss with Israel the creation of their State. The is now is knowing whether Tel Aviv in interested.”
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (10/29): "The deterioration of Yasser Arafat's health foreshadows the dispute for his succession. The scenarios include anything for a relatively peaceful transition of power to his deputies--which seems most likely to happen--to a tough and perhaps violent dispute among several groups for Arafat's inheritance.... Younger leaders have questioned the efficiency of the Arafat administration, especially the high levels of corruption in his government.... Arafat's possible death or disability, despite the risks of upheaval it may cause, may become a breath for the resumption of the peace process. For this to become true, however, it will require that the Palestinians know how to choose and support a moderate and representative leader."
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