November 10, 2004
YASSER ARAFAT: MEDIA FOCUS ON LEGACY, HEIRS AND PEACE PROSPECTS
** Near death, Arafat is touted as both "an idol and misfortune for his people."
** Pessimists worry that "the void left by Arafat will not be easily filled."
** To optimists, Arafat's pending demise is a "historic chance" for peace in Middle East.
Arafat, a 'builder' or 'destroyer'?-- Global media presented starkly contrasting, and often conflicted, assessments of Yasser Arafat's tenure as the paramount Palestinian leader. While Israel's conservative, independent Jerusalem Post dubbed him the "father of modern terrorism," equating his rule with Stalin's, Lebanon's moderate Daily Star lauded the PLO Chairman as the symbol of the Palestinian "struggle for recognition and justice." Euro papers acknowledged both extremes of his legacy. France's right-of-center Le Figaro considered this "icon of the Palestinian cause" to be both a "skilled strategist" and an "opportunist reacting to world events." His status as a "terrorist and Nobel Peace laureate" symbolized the incongruity of his record.
Palestinians left with a 'succession crisis'-- Writers pointed to the need for the Palestinians to find "strong and legitimate leadership." Germany's Financial Times Deutschland expressed the prevalent view that "those responsible must now clarify the succession." Others, like Spain's conservative La Razon, expected no answers to the succession question anytime soon, stating that "no-one has the stature to succeed the 'ra'is' and win respect from either their fellow countrymen or the Arab countries." Most dailies doubted a smooth transition to the post-Arafat era. Russia's reformist Izvestiya observed that "warring factions are already up in arms, fighting for power." Some observers contended that Arafat bore responsibility for the fact "that there is no successor standing ready."
After Arafat, a 'fresh beginning' for peace?-- Arafat's death would be "the greatest boon to Middle East peace hopes," opined Canada's conservative National Post. Euro papers agreed that life without Arafat could foster "the start of democracy and serious negotiations with Israel." Even those who saw a new opportunity for peace in the making noted that "both sides [still] need to make far-reaching concessions" to reach a permanent settlement. Arab outlets proceeded from the assumption that Israeli PM Sharon's villification of Arafat was a ploy to avoid serious peace negotiations. West Bank papers warned that "tension" will not disappear in Arafat's absence, stating that international support for the Roadmap will be "desperately needed." Others expressed concerns over the possibility that "a civil war that will make the prospect of peace even more remote."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Gloria Kim
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 84 reports from 26 countries over 3-10 November 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "A Tragedy And An Opportunity"
Jonathan Steele commented in the left-of-center Guardian (11/5): "Arafat's demise will be both a tragedy and an opportunity. He is the father of the nation but not yet the father of the Palestinian state. It will be up to others to fulfill that task. But the Palestinians have to be the ones to choose them. Leaders selected or anointed by outsiders will never gain the necessary stature."
"The Resistance Fighter And Visionary Who Would Never Be A Statesman"
Michael Binyon observed in the conservative Times (11/5): "Arafat's tragedy was his failure to transform himself from guerrilla leader to statesman. His journey, from young resistance fighter organizing raids into Israel from Egypt and Jordan, into the elder statesman of the Palestinian movement was as turbulent as his own life and as full of disappointments."
"Peace Push, Please: Bush Should Start Solving, Not Multiplying, Mideast Crises"
An editorial in the independent Financial Times read (11/5): "The removal from the scene of Yasser Arafat, the veteran Palestinian leader who appeared last night to be close to death's door, would also give Mr. Bush an opportunity. For the U.S. president, like PM Sharon, had come to see Mr. Arafat as an obstacle to peace, and refused to deal with him. A lasting successor to Mr. Arafat may take time to emerge. But when one does, Mr. Bush should put the internationally-agreed 'road map' to peace back in front of the two sides, and insist they start carrying out their mutual obligations under it--a Palestinian crackdown on terrorism and Israeli pullout from the occupied West Bank as well as Gaza."
FRANCE: "A State Of Emergency"
Gerard Dupuy in left-of-center Liberation (11/10): “The first task Arafat’s successors will need to address is to bring the Palestinian Authority around to more transparency in its budget.... They will have to establish a new hierarchy if the Palestinian state hopes to achieve some form of legitimacy on its own territory.... The consequences for diplomacy will be great: peace in the Middle East requires first that the Palestinian society be pacified through good governance.... The men who are competing to succeed Arafat, although they are rivals, all share a more pragmatic vision of Palestinian reality than Arafat had. They all agree that it is time to lift the state of emergency which Arafat symbolized.”
"Death And Hope"
Bernard Guetta on government-run France Inter radio (11/10): “It is not easy to say that a man’s death may give new hope to a stalled situation in the Middle East. It is not easy to say it, yet this is what is happening. As if all the players saw this as the one opportunity not to be missed.... The positive sign is the sense of unity demonstrated by the Palestinian officials who have already begun talks with Israel about Arafat’s final resting place. It will be Ramallah: it is a compromise and a symbol. Another positive sign has come from the U.S. which in the past two days has reiterated its support for two coexisting states, Palestine and Israel.... President Bush did not involve himself in the Middle East conflict during his first term. Now that he will have a different interlocutor, this could change. President Bush needs to re-establish trust with Arab capitals and with the Muslim world.... This could be a new area for entente between the U.S. and Europe...and an opportunity to get the international support he needs to get out of the Iraqi quagmire.”
Patrick Sabatier wrote in left-of-center Liberation (11/5): “Arafat’s death will open an era of dangers for the Palestinians and beyond for the Middle East. While his memory will outlive his demise, the question is whether Palestine will survive him. Palestine was Arafat’s dream and his historic role was to incarnate that dream and to give an identity to a people whose existence was denied.... Arafat, in spite of his past, became more than an icon, he became the spirit of Palestine.... Will Arafat’s orphan children be able to find unity beyond the symbol embodied by Arafat? Israel is glad that Arafat’s end is near. It won't be so glad if his death leads to a civil war that will make the prospect of peace even more remote.”
Yves Threard noted in right-of-center Le Figaro (11/5): “Arafat made the Palestinian question the unavoidable issue for peace in the world. But did he ever really want peace? This former terrorist who later became the President of the Palestinian Authority has always been an expert in double language.... He was the icon of the Palestinian cause...who managed to internationalize a regional conflict.... But many will emphasize his murderous methods.... Has he been an unavoidable interlocutor or a skilled diplomat? The man has always been two-faced: promoting peace but also continuing to do battle. He bears much of the responsibility for the failed Tabah agreement of 2000.... He has been called a skilled strategist, but he was more of an opportunist reacting to world events.... Contrary to the legend, Arafat did not always do battle for his people.”
GERMANY: "Waiting For Abbas"
Pierre Heumann opined in an editorial in business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (11/10): "The new Palestinian leadership presents itself with a new, fresh logo. Mahmoud Abbas…does not wear a uniform and a Palestinian cloth and does not make pithy remarks about martyrs.... He also criticized the intifada, disassociates himself from terror, supports talks with Israel and is willing to make territorial compromises.... But compared to Arafat, Abbas has some fundamental weaknesses: He hardly has any charisma and is shy of the media. But the main weakness is: He is no populist who can explain complex matters to the people.... But it should be a good omen that Abbas, during his brief stay in office, succeeded in establishing links to radical, Islamic organizations, especially to Hamas. This could help him as new PLO leader master the difficult transition stage into the post-Arafat era. But only time will tell whether the soft Abbbas is strong and smart enough to survive the looming power struggles."
"Corruption In Top Leadership"
Right-of-center Wetzlarer Neue Zeitung said (11/10):"The dispute at Arafat's deathbed spotlights the possibilities of corruption and misuse of power at the top of the Palestinians that have developed due to a lack of democratic control. The donor countries in the world are well-advised to stop their payments to dubious channels."
"Expect Battles For Succession"
Right-of-center Landeszeitung of Lueneburg wrote (11/10): "The end of the terrorist…offers opportunities, but even more dangers for the Middle East. After Arafat's death, we must expect battles for his succession. The next intifada of young Palestinians, who grew up in refugee camps, will possibly be directed against the old Palestinians, whose life was formed by their life in exile.... It is likely that Arafat's successors will try to increase their support by offering an unwillingness for compromise. In this respect, a visionary Israeli leadership should try to counter this development, for instance, by allowing Arafat's burial in Jerusalem. But if Israel continues to stick to its apartheid policy towards the Palestinians in the occupied territories, it only plays into the hands of a new generation of terrorists."
"U.S. And Europe Could Open New Chapter In Middle East"
Thilo Koehler commented on national radio station Deutschlandfunk of Cologne (11/5): "Who will gain the upper hand in Palestine and how will the intelligence services act? And what will Hamas activists do? After decades of occupation, there are no supportive, democratic structures that could help pave the way to a new beginning. But not only Israel will have to keep back. Those who mention the name of their favorite candidate will have lost, and those who want to influence the situation will only help destabilize the situation. The Palestinians must now get the chance to settle the conflict over Arafat's succession on their own. But they also need support. And there is a reason why, in this context, Joschka Fischer's name is mentioned. He enjoys the confidence of both sides. The goal is clear: a return to the road map, a fresh beginning in the peace process. But this will not work without he United States. Now Bush could prove that he is able to pursue a constructive policy in the Middle East. Together with Europe the United States he could open a new chapter in this downtrodden region. Arafat's death hour could prove to be a new chance for the Middle East."
"Bush's Chance In Peacemaking"
Center-right Neue Westfaelische of Bielefeld said (11/5): "The hours or days before Yasser Arafat passing away should not be slipped. This is a historically unique opportunity for the re-elected U.S. president to score points in the Arab world. George W. Bush has the chance to begin his second term as a peacemaker. Only the United States is able to exert the necessary pressure on Israel, which will force PM Sharon to enter into talks with the Palestinians. Bush must send an unmistakable signal that he is not the only one who is siding with Sharon. It would be up to the Europeans to convince the Palestinian interim administration of the honesty of these efforts. This can also cost money, but it would be an investment that could yield great profits. Peace in the Middle East will deprive Islamic terrorism of their most important argument in the Muslim world."
"Problem Is Arafat Himself"
Right-of-center Fraenkischer Tag of Bamberg (11/5) stated: "The problem is: Arafat himself, this autocrat who is suspicious of everything and everyone, jealously saw to it that none of his Paladins was able to develop into a serious competitor. The contradictions of his character also reflect the conflict that promises an uncertain future for the Palestinian people. Terrorist and Peace Nobel laureate, president under house arrest, would-be state founder, venerated and hated--his vita does not offer normalcy, just like the entire situation in the Middle East. He has always seen himself as a fighter for peace, but it is highly questionable whether he, at the end of his long struggle, still had a view for the realities in a changing world."
"The End Of A Virtual President"
Rudolph Chimelli held in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (11/5): "The aggressive man with his stubbly beard and kaffiyeh embodied his virtual land in the eyes of the world like nobody else since the peaceful Mahatma Ghandi. Many despised Arafat, but all knew him. He bears responsibility that there is no successor standing ready, as he kept the grip on power and coffers even when his hands were already shaking. But Israel is to blame most. They killed everybody, or put them behind bars, who could have become a political heavyweight in Palestine. At the same time, they destroyed the infrastructure of the Palestinian administration, the necessary means of the autonomy authority.... Israel will not be bothered if the peace process remains frozen under Bush. The substance of this process has been shrinking anyway. Israel's policy in Gaza is macabre; they go one step backward by removing settlements and two steps forward by military actions."
"End Of An Epoch"
Jacques Schuster opined in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (11/5): "An epoch ends with Arafat's death. Without Abu Ammar, his nom de guerre, one cannot explain the history of the Palestinians.... Only Arafat was able to unite Palestinians. That is the misfortune of the Palestinian people today. However, Arafat failed to take off his uniform.... He had chosen war, but the intifadah resulted in the opposite of what Palestinians wanted: endless pain, the end of the Palestinian autonomy, the division of their territories by fences and barbed wire, and the isolation of their leader. Arafat was out of touch with reality, speaking of peace in English and of war in Arabic. He was spitting acid. Many Palestinians might regret his end, but it actually is an opportunity. Life without Arafat could be the end of corruption and mismanagement, the start of democracy and serious negotiations with Israel."
Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg editorialized (11/5): "It is clear that Arafat will not return to power; his political time is over. When he went to Paris he was just a shadow of his former self. He is no longer in the position to lead the apparatus. The political focus should therefore not be on his bed, but the Palestinian territories. Those responsible there must now clarify the succession. It will be difficult to fill the gap Arafat leaves behind. This makes it even more important to find a strong and legitimate leadership; Palestinians must therefore hold an election."
ITALY: "At Arafat’s Funeral The Road Map Could Be Revived By The Powerful"
Antonio Ferrari commented in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (11/7): “Usually death sets the time frame for a funeral. Rarely does a funeral set the pace for death. This time a funeral is almost more important than the death, because Yasser Arafat’s passing away is a foreseeable event, while many fear that during his funeral the leader’s presence will continue to be felt as if he were still alive and that he will continue to issue vetoes and report cards from his coffin.... Arafat’s imaginary funeral has become an arena, not only for the power struggle within the PNA but also for an immeasurable series of unexpected political opportunities...to influence and even re-design future balance in the region.”
"The Vacuum He Will Leave Behind"
Bernardo Valli noted in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (11/5): “Yasser Arafat’s departure from the forefront of politics leaves a huge vacuum in the Middle East: it opens the way for a possible resumption of dialogue, but in which a new cycle of even greater violence could develop.... The Palestinian President...hindered any real truce, but at the same time he was an element of moderation. This ambiguity is destined to fade and its effects are unclear.... In forty years he has been a shrewd politician, a courageous and astute revolutionary, a negotiator worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize; but he was also an equivocal, beyond-hard-line negotiator.... He was an authoritative chief who was not corrupted, but who corrupted. His roles were so many that they ended up damaging his image.... But he will leave behind an enormous vacuum. And this vacuum will open up just as the U.S. President-reelect begins his second and final mandate. Lobbyists can no longer condition Bush; he no longer has to try and gain votes. In theory, he is freer to take action in the Middle East.... Arafat’s departure from the political scene and Bush’s simultaneous availability may not only lead to a resumption of dialogue but to real negotiations.”
"The Vanished Dream"
R.A. Segre stated in pro-government, leading center-right Il Giornale (11/5): “Yasser Arafat’s death...will mark the final departure from the Middle Eastern political scene, and from the theater of international ideological fervor, of one the most controversial figures of our time. A warrior, revolutionary, shrewd politician, courageous fighter, extraordinary instigator of crowds, this little man who incarnated the Palestinian nation to the degree that he became its untouchable symbol, was at the same time an idol and misfortune for his people.”
"The Crossroads Of The Arab-Israeli Crux"
Alberto Negri remarked in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (11/5): “In reality, Arafat was neither a victim nor an executioner: he fully represented the contradictory and conflicting symbol of the Arab-Israeli issue.... In this bloody and dramatic moment...Arafat cannot simply be replaced because, as is the case with many Arab leaders, he has no successors. In this Palestinian drama...the Arabs seem more inclined to listen to the appeals of extremists, rather than to moderate leaders. This is why the void left by Arafat will not be easily filled.”
RUSSIA: "Death Scheduled For Yesterday"
Zakhar Gel'man in Tel Aviv wrote in Rossiyskaya Gazeta (11/10): "It does not matter now when exactly PA leader Yasser Arafat passed away. His death is not merely a medical fact. He played a great role in the seething political life of the region. Now what? Arafat must have really believed in his immortality, a trait typical of many tyrants and dictators. His comrades-in-arms Ahmed Qureia and Mahmoud Abbas have had to share power. No doubt, Abbas has become Number One in the Autonomy and relies on Muhammed Dahlan, who is well connected to the PA special services.... Clearly, some would like to picture Arafat, a terrorist with a long record of service, as a saint.... He did not become a shahid--he could never be one. Instead, he many times defiled that word, which is sacred to a true Muslim and refers to a kind and God-fearing person who will never lift his hand against defenseless children, women and old folk. The Arafat era is over. For decades he cheated and stole from Palestinians, and as he did so he tried to worm himself into their confidence, and finally gaining it, he became their idol. Arafat may look differently to different people, but one thing about him is certain: he was a master of unfair play. Now that his game is over and the PA throne is vacant, it is important not only who will take it, but by what rules he/she will play."
Ivan Groshkov held on the front page of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (11/10): "Suha Arafat has always been hungry for power, but only now does she have a real chance to get it. For her Arafat, dead or alive, is a chance to prove her ability to influence events in Palestine. Most observers, however, agree that Suha is not going to take over her husband's place or play a political role. In fact, she is not even planning to leave Paris. Her chief motive is revenge. She would hate to see Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qureia come to power in Palestine."
"Three No's Spell More Violence"
Anatoliy Kerzhentsev held in official parliamentary Parlamentskaya Gazeta (11/9): "It is unlikely that the death of the PLO leader will cause the Israelis and Palestinian to resume talks in spite of Tel Aviv's repeated statements that there will be no talks as long as Arafat is around. But then, the dialogue, according to many experts, did not stall because of Arafat. The reason is that Tel Aviv won't talk to the Palestinians.... Palestinians, not without reason, are seriously worried that, with the 'dividing wall' built and Sharon's plan implemented, Israel may never want to talk. Israel is getting back to its extremist policy of three no's--no to the return of occupied Arab lands, no to a Palestinian state, and no to a divided Jerusalem. This means that the current Israeli leadership is getting away from the policy pursued by the former head of cabinet, Itzhak Rabin, who, seeking reconciliation with the Arab neighbors on the basis of the land-for-peace principle, made peace with Jordan after signing a peace treaty with Egypt. Unless Tel Aviv gives up its extremist stand, Israel may face serious security problems pretty soon.... For many years Iraq posed a serious threat to Israel. As Saddam Hussein's regime fell, Israel switched its attention to Iran, whose military and other possibilities are far greater than Iraq's. The growing involvement of extremist Islamist organizations in the Arab-Israeli conflict is another source of concern."
"Arafat's Political Heirs Concerned Most"
Zakhar Gel'man and Nikolay Paklin remarked in official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta (11/9): "No doubt, those speaking of political motives behind the attempts to artificially prolong Arafat's life are right."
"The Arafat Era Over"
An editorial in reformist Izvestiya read (11/5): "Arafat is going at the most inopportune time. He didn't have time to (did not want to?) prepare a successor. The PA elite is split. Warring factions are already up in arms, fighting for power. Islamic radicals have launched an offensive on all fronts. Secular nationalism, of which Arafat has always been an embodiment, is no longer in fashion. This is true of the entire Arab world, as well as of Palestine. When Arafat started his war, none of his Palestinian comrades, the militants, knew what jihad was. Today it is the most popular call. In that sense, the Arafat era has long ended."
"Arafat Long Gone"
Yelena Suponina wrote in reformist Vremya Novostey (11/5): "Even alive physically, Arafat has long been dead politically. Arafat the politician died a long time ago. It is just that none of his entourage has had the heart to say it.... Quick-tempered, testy, and ambitious, Yasser Arafat would share authority with no one. Initially, the concentration of power in his hands was good for the 'Palestinian revolution.' In the past six years, however, running things that way has hurt everything Arafat has lived for. It is not even that he has yet to see his dream, a Palestinian state, come true. It is that he has no successor."
AUSTRIA: "Mourning And Hope"
Foreign editor for independent political weekly Profil Georg Hoffamnn-Ostenhof editorialized (11/9): "With Arafat's demise, the international pressure on Israel to coordinate its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian authorities is increasing. And if that happens, the logic of negotiations, which has been on hold for a considerable time now, could once again prevail. After all, what could happen now in the post-Arafat era is that a set of new, younger and more modern Palestinian politicians come to power who, in one way or another, are cleverer and more effective in their dealings with the Israeli occupying power and government. In any case, things are in motion now. It is possible that this motion will generate a positive development. However, it is still not very likely."
"Help For Arafat’s Successor"
Foreign affairs editor for independent daily Der Standard Gudrun Harrer wrote (11/8): “The Palestinian leadership, which has some very capable and pragmatic--and politically modern--people among them, seem to be capable of administrating a correct transition, which includes the division of the different offices Arafat held. This is a step in the right direction. On the local level, things will be more difficult, especially as far as the security services are concerned.... These groups have already spoken up for themselves: a clear indication that they will not allow the cards to be reshuffled without taking them into consideration. Although totally antagonistic towards him politically, they nevertheless had to accept Arafat as the national symbol of the Palestinians (just as he had placed restrictions on himself in his dealings with them as religious groups). Arafat’s successors cannot expect the same considerate treatment, and they in turn are aware that their legitimacy is precarious--at least until there have been new elections. It is almost impossible for them to do anything that Arafat would not also have done.... The Palestinian leadership is now to a very great extent dependent on support from outside--especially from Israel, but also from Egypt, which is closely involved in these processes--if it wants to fulfill its function as an authority capable of maintaining order in the Gaza Strip. This is all the more urgent as PM Sharon intends to stick to his unilateral Gaza withdrawal plans for next year. It would be desirable, however--and it is indeed probable--that Sharon will coordinate the details with Arafat’s successor. His claim of ‘unilateralism’ he could still maintain, since the decision to withdraw would still rest with Israel alone.”
"Death Far Away From Home"
Stefan Galoppi maintained in mass circulation Kurier (11/5): “The fact that Arafat could not or would not prevent the terror against Israeli civilians cost him much prestige. The suicide bombers eventually brought his arch-enemy Ariel Sharon to power and the Israeli tanks back into the autonomous regions. For Sharon it was easy to isolate Arafat in his bombed residence and stigmatize him as the real obstacle on the way to peace. Now this argument is invalidated and Sharon will be called upon to prove his will to peace: Arafat’s funeral, the mass mourning in the Palestine areas for the ‘martyr’, the conflict-laden search for his successor, all this will demand much tact on the part of Israel. The crucial question, however, will be whether Sharon will make his way back to the negotiation table with the new Palestinian leadership and whether the Palestinians will finally get a realistic prospect for an independent state. Only if this is the case, will Arafat’s death have ended the agony in the Middle East.”
"The Freedom Fighter Missed The Chance For Peace"
Helmut Mueller opined in independent Salzburger Nachrichten (11/5): “Former U.S President Bill Clinton said that, in retrospect, it was a historic mistake on the part of Arafat to have rejected the big ‘deal’ with Israel in 2000/1. Instead of reacting to the far-reaching proposal of the then Prime Minister Ehud Barak with constructive counter-proposals, the PLO boss once again opted for violence. By initiating the second Intifada, Arafat probably wanted to exact more concessions from Israel. However, he only played into the hands of the radicals in his own camp and offered PM Sharon a pretext for a counter attack. In the end, Arafat was regarded as the one who had shipwrecked the peace process that was begun in the 90s.... Israel is now hoping that a new, ‘more pragmatic’ Palestinian leadership will succeed Arafat, thus paving the way for new peace negotiations. However, if Abu Mazen together with other Arafat loyalists now succeeds him, the question still remains of whether the old guard in the PLO commands sufficient regard among the Palestinians. A power vacuum, even a power struggle among the Palestinians is not to be excluded. Militant Islamists could try to extend the fight against Israel from their stronghold in the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. Israel’s military pressure has split Palestinian society. It could take years for a new integrative figure among the Palestinians to emerge. It is possible that, without Arafat’s authority, it will in the short run be even more difficult to achieve peace.”
BELGIUM: "Difficult Legacy"
Foreign affairs writer Lode Delputte in independent De Morgen opined (11/6): “The ball is in the Palestinian court. The Palestinians have to come up with a new leadership that is acceptable to themselves, Israel and the international community. Against that Israel will have to make credible efforts by involving the Palestinians in the withdrawal from Gaza and by breathing new life into the roadmap to peace.... It is an undeniable fact that Yasser Arafat has played an historic role in the Middle East and that he deserves respect for his attempt to fulfill the Palestinian dream. It is equally undeniable that his successors are facing an extremely difficult legacy. That is why it is imperative that the international community--also and especially Bush II’s Washington--focus again seriously on the Israeli-Palestinian question.”
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Waiting For The Death Of The Last Mohican"
Pavel Masa comments in the center-right daily Lidove Noviny (11/10): "Americans suggest that a re-elected George Bush would not mind opening a new chapter in relations with the EU [concerning the Middle East] in which both sides would not be hindered by their historical burden of relations with Arafat.... There is only one condition for fulfilling Western hopes and not fulfilling fears of the Palestinians: a general agreement on transition of Palestine towards independence to be concluded as soon as possible. In other words: to accomplish the idea to which Arafat devoted his life, but whose realization would be made possible only by his death."
DENMARK: "Arafat's Demise Is A Chance For Peace"
Sensationalist tabloid BT editorialized (11/7): “As Arafat is dying and Bush has been reelected, the world has a unique chance to find a peaceful solution to the Middle East as well as promote the development of democracy in the entire region.”
Center-right Politiken argued (11/7): “The Palestinians’ election of a new leader offers them an historic chance to take responsibility (for the future development of the situation). Arafat’s departure will be traumatic for them, but it could be the chance for peace if both parties are ready to embrace the chance.”
IRELAND: "Pivotal Juncture For US And Israel"
Conor O'Clery, North America editor, wrote in center left The Irish Times (11/10): “With the post-Arafat era beginning, the alliance between the US and Israel could be reaching a pivotal juncture, according to US politicians and analysts. US Secretary of State Mr Colin Powell said a transition of power from Mr Yasser Arafat, who is seriously-ill in hospital in Paris, could offer a chance to make progress.... US President George Bush is expected to come under strong pressure from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who arrives in Washington tomorrow for a summit meeting, to work with a new Palestinian leadership towards a rerun of the Camp David negotiations in 2000.... Mr Blair will carry some weight as America's closest and most popular ally in conveying the European view that images of violence in Gaza and the West Bank encourage anti-American sentiment in the Arab world.... In his first term, the President has hardened long-standing US support for Israel.... Mr Bush's instinctively close alliance with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was strengthened after 9/11 by a sense of a shared fight against terrorism. When Mr Sharon subsequently announced a withdrawal of settlements from Gaza without any consultation with Palestinians, Mr Bush - and Senator John Kerry - backed the action, and Washington made no significant objections when Israel began building a security wall on the West Bank. The endorsement of Mr Sharon's unilateralism and the demonisation of Mr Arafat goes back to the last days of the Clinton administration, when outgoing President Bill Clinton told Mr Bush in no uncertain terms of his disappointment with the Palestinian leader.”
"A Man Of Contrasts"
The center-right, populist Irish Independent asserted (11/5): "Yasser Arafat has hovered over the Middle East since the 1960s effortlessly shape-shifting from hawk to a dove according to the interests of Palestine. To his people he was the beloved ‘Abu Ammar’, a living embodiment of their struggle for liberation. To the Israelis he was the smiling face of terrorism, pulling the strings of the gunmen behind the scenes. In truth, he was both.... But he showed he could be a bridge builder and a statesman, facts recognized by his winning of the Nobel Peace prize.... With the assassination of Rabin and the continued violence, Israel and the U.S. eventually lost faith with him. He has been boycotted since the failure of the U.S.-sponsored summit in 2000 and the subsequent Palestinian uprising.... In the West there was continuing criticism of his obstinate refusal to condemn terrorism, or rein in its masters. Others will argue he has been too heavily saddled by the burdens of history. Expecting one man to deliver solutions to problems left smouldering over centuries is naive.... As one leader exits the world stage and another, overwhelmingly endorsed, begins his second term, there is most certainly an imperative to try again.”
ROMANIA: "World Should Combine Effort For Peace"
In respected Adevarul, foreign policy analyst Romulus Caplescu opined (11/8): “The international community should involve itself more deeply than it has done it up to now in the peace process, and the combined efforts of world diplomacy are needed in this regard. The world cannot allow, in the middle of 21st century, having the Middle East wound opened and bleeding, poisoning the entire international climate and risking subjecting the world to terrifying succession of religious wars recalling the Middle Age.”
SPAIN: "Critical Succession"
Left-of-center El País wrote (11/10): "The Palestinians, and the entire world, have a lot at stake in the way that Arafat’s succession is channeled. He never facilitated a succession of power during his lifetime for fear of being displaced as a leader.... A pact between forces is necessary if (Palestine) is to face the ballot box and not go to the streets. It was possible with Arafat eight years ago. With help from the US and European Union, it should also be possible without him."
"Arafat: The Succession Is Open"
Independent El Mundo wrote (11/6): "The big unknown is how Sharon is going to respond to the death of Arafat. Will he offer a truce to his adversaries, or will he take advantage of the power vacuum to try to destroy them? Arafat has left neither a successor nor institutions that can alleviate his disappearance; so the approaching future is complicated."
"The Leader's Legacy"
Conservative La Razon commented (Internet Version, 11/5): "Yasir Arafat's dying moments come at the worst point in history for everyone. While he was alive, the Middle East powder keg was under control. Once he has gone, every scenario is possible and, unfortunately, catastrophic ones are the most prevalent.... Arafat departs with two matters pending which he leaves as inheritance: finding a land on which to build a state and leaving his succession 'tied-up and well tied-up.' The two issues remain open and more uncertain than ever.... The tens of Palestinian movements and factions, all of them armed and some with heavy material, will never agree on who will take command of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).... No-one has the stature to succeed the "ra'is" and win respect from either their fellow countrymen or the Arab countries. And the Palestinian National Authority (PNA)...could never speak on behalf of all Palestinians and nor can it today.... The Arab Nation, the umma as it is known in Bedouin mythology...with Arafat gone...could disintegrate. The Arab League, which at the end of the day was an invention of British intelligence, might remain, several Arab and Muslim multinational organizations could survive, but the umma will wander like a new Al-Andalus [Moorish Spain]: a dream transformed into legend.... All this augurs the worst possible scenario.... The powder keg has begun to burn."
Centrist La Vanguardia observed (11/5): "The future (of Palestine) is unknown. In the short term, (Arafat's) disappearance does not open hopes of a change in the relationship with Sharon's Israel. No change can be seen on the horizon for Israeli's policy of weakening Palestine, or in the paralysis of the 'road map' to peace, although many new Palestinian authorities are willing to do their bit. After Bush, the main recent victory goes to Sharon."
ISRAEL: "The Legacy"
Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote on page one of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (11/10): "Currently, the eyes are not only turned on Abu Mazen and Abu Ala. They are also turned to Ariel Sharon. Sharon has proved over the past year that he is capable of surprising the most skilled of those interpreting his moves. He has a political vision, and great determination to implement it. He wishes to make his mark on history. Abu Mazen could be a good partner for the disengagement plan. Both he and Sharon stand to gain from cooperation. But he could also be a tough rival. The world, including the Arab countries, accepted Israel's refusal to negotiate with Arafat. It will not accept a boycott of Abu Mazen. Sharon believes that only he who initiates succeeds in controlling the political agenda. He did this in initiating the disengagement plan. Now he can do it again, with an initiative that will adapt the concept of disengagement to the new situation: the same disengagement, but this time with a partner. He does not have to do this today or tomorrow, but the twilight period on the Palestinian side is nearing its end. When the sun dawns on the day after, it would be best for it to find Israel with a plan."
"A Very Narrow Bridge"
Liberal op-ed writer Yael Gewirtz commented in pluralist Yediot Aharonot (11/9): "There is doubt as to whether Arafat was in control of his life, but there is no doubt that the timing and the scenario of his death are out of control. Be his wife's motives what they may, be his successors' motives what they may, be his death on this day or another, the glory of death has been lost. The epic drama of a hero's death was missed. Instead of him ascending tempestuously heavenward like a pillar of fire, he is strewn, recumbent like a corpse in his bed, while the fire and brimstone of the exchanges between Suha and the elected leaders of the Palestinian people threaten to annihilate the last vestiges of his self- and national respect. The irony of Arafat's fate is that Arafat did not fail to miss this historic opportunity to miss his final opportunity. He neither walked the path of peace nor won a hero's death."
Ami Ayalon, the co-initiator of the Peoples' Voice peace initiative, wrote in Ha'aretz (11/9): "If Israel and the Palestinians find common ground, disengagement could lead to coexistence, thus neutralizing the claims of Sharon's detractors that the planned withdrawals from the Gaza Strip and West Bank simply eternalize the conflict. And once Israeli political opposition is quelled, the international community will surely follow. By reaching out to the Palestinians in a spirit of post-Arafat rapprochement, Israel will win much-needed plaudits in Washington, London, Brussels and beyond. In turn, the world will back disengagement and offer peacemaking guarantees that will seal the Palestinian pragmatists' place in leading their people. Arafat's death may be good riddance, but Israel will gain nothing from abandoning the Palestinians to the bloody aftermath. This is a real opportunity to help forge a future, neighborly Palestine and so save the Zionist dream of a democratic Jewish homeland."
"After Arafat, An Off-Balance Gaza"
Arab affairs commentator Danny Rubinstein wrote in Ha'aretz (11/8): "The main concern about what will happen in Gaza without the PA chairman stems from the fact that until now, Yasser Arafat served as a balancing factor in the struggle between the heads of the services in Gaza. Without him, major unrest is liable to develop there. We are referring not only to a personal quarrel between senior officials--such as Muhammad Dahlan and Musa Arafat--which can be solved by a sulha [reconciliation] over a cup of coffee. This is a serious struggle for power, in which each of the parties has allies and provides services from which thousands of families earn their living.... Arafat also served to a large extent as a balancing factor in connection with activities in the West Bank, all the PLO institutions, the PA and the Fatah movement. But because of the distress in Gaza, the effect of the quarrels there and the competition among the political groups are much more serious. The outbreak of violent riots in Gaza could also influence the disengagement plan. Riots there will provide ammunition to the opponents of disengagement, who will certainly try to postpone the withdrawal until it becomes clear who will govern there. In any case, the problems caused by Arafat's absence are liable to begin from within Gaza."
"A Chance For Conciliation"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (11/7): "Senior Palestinian officials present the issue of Arafat's burial as a touchstone to Israel's intentions toward the leadership who will succeed him.... Arafat is directly and indirectly responsible for the death of many Israelis, and for missing a series of opportunities to end the conflict. However, the death of a revered leader of a neighboring nation is not the time for revenge and payback. The ceremonies of farewell for Arafat will provide Israel with an opportunity to be generous in making a humane gesture to its neighbors. Leaning toward the Palestinians on the issue of where Arafat is buried will signal to the Arab nations and the whole world, which will be watching the funeral, that a new era has begun (with Arafat's demise) in the relations between Israel and Ramallah. The Palestinians must understand that the Temple Mount is out of the question.... [Nonetheless,] Israel and the Palestinian leadership could reach an agreement that Arafat would be buried in a plot on the slopes of Temple Mount, but outside the walls of the Old City. Both sides must make every effort to ensure the funeral takes place quietly and is not turned into political demonstrations by extremists and law-breakers.... Rejecting the request to bury Arafat in Jerusalem will play into the hands of fanatic Muslims seeking incitement. An agreement about Arafat's burial arrangements in Jerusalem will strengthen the moderate Palestinian camp and give Israelis hope of replacing the atmosphere of violent confrontation with one of negotiation and conciliation."
Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (11/7): "When Joseph Stalin died, millions of Russians mourned the man who had murdered millions of their countrymen. Even today, there are those who mourn Stalin, though history regards his reign as his nation's darkest hour. Such is the legacy of Yasser Arafat.... Arafat was a destroyer, not a builder, because in addition to being the father of Palestinian nationalism, he was the father of something broader: modern terrorism. Arafat proved that terrorism could be used to gain legitimacy rather than lose it. If he had not been a terrorist, he would not have made it to the UN podium, pistol on his belt, in 1973, or to the White House lawn in 1993, or to Gaza from Tunis 10 years ago. The last two stops, of course, were achieved by a promise to end and combat terrorism, a promise Arafat never kept.... Now Arafat's successors may ask that he be buried in Jerusalem. The irony is, if Arafat had accepted Ehud Barak's offer, he would likely have been buried in the Palestinian half of a divided Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine. Now he will not, symbolizing the statelessness that he perpetuated. Arafat leaves another legacy: the first society in history to have glorified suicide-murders on a national scale, starting from grade-school children. It remains to be seen how that society--brought up on the fantasy of 'return,' on the notion that every Israeli city is a 'settlement,' and on the idea that Israel exists entirely on 'stolen Palestinian land'--will inculcate a nationalism that is not based on Israel's destruction. It is difficult to imagine that Arafat's immediate successors will be able to do anything more than begin to set their people on such a path."
"A New Reality"
Zeev Schiff wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (11/5): "Arafat's demise would certainly increase the pressure on Israel to put off the disengagement plan from Gaza and northern Samaria [i.e. the northernmost part of the West Bank]. The reality after Arafat requires the opposite response--to keep or even escalate the disengagement timetable. Even more important, Arafat's departure opens a possibility to turn the disengagement from a unilateral Israeli move into a fully coordinated one with the new Palestinian leadership."
"Upon The Death"
Nahum Barnea contended in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (11/5): "Unlike Arafat, Abu Mazen is opposed to terror in every fiber of his being. Unlike him, he made the move from the era of the underground to complete identification with the values of the West. This is acceptable to the Americans and to the Europeans. A great deal of pressure will be put on Israel to help him. On the other hand, the Israeli intelligence assessment is that Abu Mazen will not do a thing against terror. He is incapable and perhaps also doesn't want to. The war on terror is part of the first stage of the road map. The second stage of the plan also causes a problem for Abu Mazen. This is the stage that refers to the establishment of a Palestinian state in temporary borders. Abu Mazen suspects that Sharon is plotting to make these temporary borders the permanent borders. In a certain sense, Arafat was a convenient adversary. It was easy to dismiss him, to rip the mask from his face, as Ehud Barak claimed. It will be more complicated with Abu Mazen."
WEST BANK: "Sharon, Bad Luck"
Ashraf Ajrami wrote in independent Al-Ayyam (11/8): “Sharon has been lucky in almost everything except President Arafat’s sudden illness, which is not in his favor not because he likes or admires Arafat, but because Arafat’s absence will cause the collapse of the most important pillar of Sharon’s political project: the imposition of a unilateral settlement on the Palestinians for a long transitional period and the prevention of a just and acceptable two-state solution. Israeli observers believe that Sharon will not be able to refuse to negotiate with any Palestinian leader replacing Arafat such as Abu Mazen or Abu ‘Ala’. Sharon will not be able to say that [Arafat’s replacement’s] hands are bloodstained or that he supports ‘terrorism.’ Sharon will then focus on this question: can the next Palestinian leadership be committed to the Roadmap obligations? [Sharon’s] conditions will be a point of contention if the U.S. manages to bring Palestinians and Israelis together at one table.... Another important thing: how will the Europeans keep their promise of accelerating the establishment of a Palestinian state and how will Washington behave regarding any future developments? Will Bush fulfill his promise about the implementation of his vision?”
Hafiz Barghuti commented in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (11/7): “I wonder, why can’t we find a single Fatah or Central Committee member or a minister able to visit the President in the hospital? Why is this circle open to only four persons and who determined that?.... Anyhow, the talk that the President might have been poisoned is on again, and up till now French doctors have not said anything about it, which reinforces the poisoning rumor every day.”
Hafez Barghuti commented in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (11/5): “I don’t understand what it means when some of us or some foreigners say that the PA is functioning normally, that the president’s ailment has not affected the situation, and that in the absence of Arafat the Palestinian state of affairs will not witness any tension! Such are merely illusions because the PA did not function in full even when the president was in a healthy condition.... Why do we lie to ourselves and claim that things are and will remain fine? Our situation is really bad and might, God forbid, get worse since we did not exert any pressure to get our institutions going.... We will desperately need international support regardless of the President’s health.... We need our leaders, whether in the executive branch, Fatah, government or the PLC, to address the people about the present and the future. It’s true that our president is ill, but this illness must not spread among our people and institutions.”
SAUDI ARABIA: "The Stage After Arafat"
Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum editorialized (11/9): "We cannot doubt the possibility of an Israeli conspiracy to kill Arafat either by siege or poison. The Israeli treatment of Arafat’s travel as a one-way trip proves that there was a conspiracy.... Israel aims to create chaos among Palestinians in order to get rid of any pro-Arafat leaders.... Obviously, Sharon is eager more than any other time to apply his conditions upon Palestinians. Especially as the American Administration, in the first and the second term, failed to distinguish between terrorism and Palestinian resistance (intifada).... Since the American administration considers Sharon a man of peace, his aggression is a way to fight terrorism."
"The Palestinian Defiance Remains"
Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad declared (11/9): "Over the years the Palestinian people have lost thousands of martyrs, and hundreds of leaders who were true and devoted to the Palestinian cause. These people did not spare themselves and gave their country the ultimate sacrifice. The Intifadah would not stop if Arafat were gone. The Intifadah would not stop because it was not Arafat that created it, but it was the will of the Palestinian people. The real loser if Arafat dies is Israel. Israel will lose a real leader and a partner who believes in peace and can bring all the Palestinian factions together."
"The Palestinian Future"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina observed (11/8): "If Chairman Arafat is on his deathbed, then the best tribute that his people can give him is to hold on to their cause, which he has fought for all his life. The enemy wants nothing but to see the Palestinians slip and let go of their rights. Observers of the Palestinian situation, and political analysts know that a peaceful political, social, and economic dialogue is the best way to resolve any dispute and find a substitute for Arafat."
"The Succession Of Arafat"
Makkah’s conservative Al-Nadwa commented (11/8): "The Succession of Arafat has been on the mind of everybody in the Palestinian Authority. It seems that those who are in control of things at the P.A. have put Palestinian solidarity at the top of their priority list... The Palestinians are working diligently to fill the power vacuum that Arafat has left. We hope that their efforts result in preserving Palestinian unity and maintaining the solidarity of their organization. For their enemy wants nothing except to see them fall apart and become preoccupied with internal disputes over power."
"The Mystery Of Arafat"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (11/7): "The development in Arafat’s health has raised many questions. The first of these questions has to do with the mystery behind Arafat’s illness. Too many conflicting opinions and observations have been given about his health condition. We could accept that Arab doctors in Ramah Allah did not have the best medical equipment to diagnose his case, but this theory fails when we listened to the conflicting diagnoses that are coming from the advanced French medical teams, and the best hospitals in Paris... It is naïve to think that Sharon will turn 180 degrees and become more willing to negotiate a peace settlement after Arafat’s death; and it is even more naive to think that the U.S. Administration would present the State of Palestine on a silver platter to those who are dreaming of their own independent nation.
"The Palestinian Jihad 'Holy War'"
Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad asserted (11/7): "Sharon and his followers are wrong if they believe that Palestinians will put their guns down just because Arafat is absent. The Palestinian fighter does not aim to kill his Palestinian brother, but he is fighting a foreign aggressor and an occupation force. Whether Arafat survives or passes away, the fight will continue. Palestine is a greater symbol and goal than any political hero. Palestine is a cause fighters are willing to die for."
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina opined (11/6): "Arafat’s successor must not be an individual, but an establishment or an institution with general guidelines accepted by all the Palestinians. This entity should be capable of taking on the fight and accepting the challenges on the path to find a peaceful settlement for the people who have suffered over the years, and who deserve a new chance in life."
"Re-organizing The Palestinian House"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (11/6): "Getting rid of Arafat has been Sharon’s goal for many years. Sharon instructed the U.S. to isolate Arafat politically, and diplomatically to reduce his power and decapitate his abilities. All that Israel wants is to create uncertainty in the body of the Palestinian Authority, and to encourage chaos in the absence of a leader like Arafat. But the Palestinians will not fall in this trap. The Palestinians are working hard to reorganize their institutions to build a cohesive unity among their various divisions.
"Tough Decision For The Palestinian Will"
Jeddah’s moderate Okaz declared (11/6): "Palestinians have a tough decision to make. They are at a crossroads that will determine their ability to persevere and see a better future... These historic and difficult moments reconfirm the Palestinians’ right to live on a free land. Their defiance and solidarity are now required more than at any time before. Palestinians must choose the successor of Arafat, and their new leader with wisdom, and a high spirit of responsibility. Any dispute over the succession will mean a defeat to the longed for goal of a bright future."
"Israelis And The Hastening Of Arafat's Demise"
Independent, Arab nationalist London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi concluded (11/5): "It seems that the Israelis are hastening the physical demise of President Arafat, having totally failed to eliminate him politically despite confining him to his office for three years.... If, God forbid, President Arafat dies during the current situation in the region, it will be a disaster for the Palestinians, who have known him as a leader and a father for 40 years, but also a greater disaster for the Israelis."
LEBANON: "Arafat’s Coma And The Absence Of A Peace Settlement"
Bechara Charbel wrote in independent Al-Balad (10/6): “We will not know at any time soon whether Arafat’s death will bring a solution to the Palestinian cause closer or would make a peace settlement impossible. The Israelis who destroyed Arafat’s image, and health...will have to deal with other partners who do not have the moral influence Arafat acquired over 40 years of struggle.... Arafat was not effective after September 11, and the Israelis did not want him to play any role.... However, it will be very difficult for the Middle East to adjust to Arafat’s death.... History will place Arafat on its list of heroes.... However, history will also remember that Arafat never gave up authority even though he should have. He continued to insist on holding on to all power even when circumstances dictated he should distribute responsibilities...and he adhered to corruption and inflexibility while the world was looking for transparency.”
"Arabs Must Assess Arafat Honestly"
The moderate English-language Daily Star editorialized (11/5): "As Palestinian President Yasser Arafat nears the twilight of his career--and perhaps the twilight of his life--it is appropriate that the Arab world should reflect on what this man has meant to the Palestinian struggle, and to assess his career honestly and fairly. In the process, the man should be separated from his policies. Arafat, still, is more than a man, more than a historical resistance figure. He remains a symbol of many things, and symbols very often carry more power than mortal flesh and blood. Thus the man sometimes may have appeared larger than life in his long career. Indeed, this larger-than-life man kept the Palestinian and the Arab-Israeli issues as front-page news for 40 years. He personified the Palestinian struggle for recognition and justice and was instrumental in not only keeping the cause alive but keeping it alive in the sympathies of the world. Policy-wise, he was also instrumental in moving the Palestinians toward realistic diplomatic compromises that have furthered the establishment of a Palestinian state. But Arafat was also a man of many contradictions. He possessed weaknesses as well as strengths. His post-Oslo Palestinian Authority, for example, could have been managed more professionally. He governed domestically in a manner that was often counter-productive and that reflected negatively on the Palestinian cause. Accusations of corruption, nepotism and of excessive, even obsessive, personal control are not without foundation. As the Arafat era draws to a close, Palestinians would be well advised to anoint a new leader who can continue Arafat's symbolic legacy, but who also has a firmer grasp on the imperatives of guiding Palestinians to statehood."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
AUSTRALIA: "Arafat’s Death Wouldn’t Solve The Main Problem"
Anthony Bubalo, research fellow at the Lowy Institute, opined in the business-oriented Australian Financial Review (11/8): “There is no doubt…that Arafat’s passing would remove an obstacle to the genuine desire of many Palestinians for internal reform and may even reinvigorate the peace process in the longer term.... Arafat is also seen by Israel as an obstacle to peace. His passing could provide a new opportunity for re-engagement; indeed, President Bush has already signaled this. Yet it would not solve the fundamentals of the impasse. To reach a permanent settlement both sides need to make far-reaching concessions.... Given the precarious state of his ruling coalition, Sharon could well agree to re-visit the plan [for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza]. One of the reasons he has given for the withdrawal was the absence of a negotiating partner. With Arafat gone that problem would be partly resolved; though...it will take time for a credible and authoritative replacement to emerge.”
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Arafat Holds The Power For A Smooth Transition"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post stated (11/3): "Whether Yasser Arafat makes a full recovery or continues to suffer from poor health, his monopoly on power and moral authority among Palestinians is already less absolute than it was before he became ill. He is still seen by many as a potent symbol of their aspirations for statehood, but his illness has made it clear how pressing the task of preparing for the post-Arafat era really is.... Mr. Arafat's illness has prompted speculation that the emergence of a more moderate Palestinian leader will reinvigorate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon has long refused to deal with Mr. Arafat and been supported in this by his powerful ally, the United States. Both Mr. Sharon and the winner of the U.S. presidential election will face intense pressure to renew negotiations if the next Palestinian president is someone like former prime minister Mahmoud Abbas.... The Palestinian movement, too, must contemplate a future without their unifying symbol. There is little likelihood someone will be able to concentrate power the way Mr. Arafat did, and this may be a positive thing as long as there is also some semblance of order. After the leader goes, the transition will succeed or fail on the strength of the institutions and leadership coming behind."
INDONESIA: "Palestine Without Arafat"
Independent Koran Tempo commented (11/10): “The path to an election is not easy. Before it can be held, the door for negotiations with Israel must be opened. Armistice must also be upheld, with or without Arafat. Israel must negotiate with a new paradigm. Israel’s demand that Arafat must first reform Palestine and control suicide bombers does not make sense. Do not forget that amid the vicious circle of violence, Israeli attacks constitute a trigger to suicide bombings.”
Muslim intellectual Republika commented (11/10): “Poor Yasser Arafat and the Palestine that he loves. At the age of 75 he fell sick and speculation soon spread that he might not be able to continue leading his people. Israel immediately stated it was ready to negotiate with his successor. For Israel and its supporters, Arafat is a terrorist mastermind and does not deserve to lead a country, and President Bush has said that no country should be built by destroying another, Israel.... Indeed, their enemies want them divided. The Palestinians have long been divided. Whereas, we know for sure that without unity they would not win the war. Israel keeps accusing the Palestinians of trying to wipe out Israel. In fact, it is the other way round. Israel has used every possible means to cleanse the Palestinians, or at least divide or make a diaspora all over the world. For these reasons, an image of unity must be built.”
"Let Us Pray For Arafat"
Muslim intellectual Republika commented (11/8): “Israel is interested in Arafat’s death because for Israel, Arafat is the main obstacle in its efforts to control Palestine and at the same time wipe it off the world map. Arafat’s strong influence has always inspired the Palestinian fighters not to stop their efforts to regain the land Israel robbed.... Arafat’s condition is of great concern. So let us pray for his recovery. If Arafat dies, and a strong generation of leadership has not emerged, it will certainly determine the situation in Palestinian and the Middle East. This will affect the world in general.”
"Anticipating Leadership Transition In Palestine"
Leading independent daily Kompas commented (11/6): “Speculation about the succession of the Palestinian leadership has added to nervousness amid the worsening condition of Arafat’s health. There is a concern that the struggle for power will not only cause confusion, but also weaken the spirit of the Palestinian struggle.... Arafat had to leave Ramallah over the weekend because his health, not because of Israeli pressure. When he recovers, he will definitely return to his people and land.... Anticipation is necessary in order to avoid a vacuum of power and uncertainty, which will only harm the future of the Palestinian struggle.”
SINGAPORE: "What Arafat Leaves Behind"
The pro-government Straits Times editorialized (11/10): "The imminent departure of the gravely ill Yasser Arafat will remove the only icon that Palestinians have had since their land was transformed by the United Nations into the Jewish state of Israel 56 years ago.... Like many ambitious men with a driving dream and an emotionally charged constituency, Mr. Arafat substituted stubbornness for statesmanship. That is why Palestinians now lack a clear voice for their cause. Mr. Arafat has left behind only a tattered flag for them. That flag will never be hoisted in an independent Palestine unless the re-elected and energized US President George W. Bush brings intransigent Israelis, Palestinians of all ideological hues, the overly cautious Europeans and the United Nations, to the bargaining table.... There need not be a protracted negotiation because Mr. Clinton's proposal of a take-it-as-it-is Palestine - with some territorial adjustments - is still valid. The Palestinian Authority will need to demonstrate that it can be entrusted with the graduation of the occupied territories to a nation-state of transparent public institutions and market-oriented policies that does not support notions of political violence. Unless Israel agrees to Palestinian statehood, it will soon be a Jewish state with a volatile Arab majority.... As Mr. Arafat's name becomes one for the ages, it is fair to ask: What if he had been more practical on behalf of dispossessed Palestinians and less focused on grandstanding? His flag would have stood for full-fledged statehood today, not as a symbol of a worthy cause that failed during his extraordinary lifetime. Say this for Yasser Arrafat: he was sui generis but that was not enough."
SOUTH KOREA: "Middle East After Arafat"
The nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun editorialized (11/6): “With Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat falling seriously ill last week, attention is being focused on whether there will be an intense power struggle within the Palestinian Authority. Even though Arafat appointed a three-person leadership structure before becoming ill to replace his authority, given the long years of his one-man rule, the power structure will inevitably be an insecure one. The best alternative would be to have a new, legitimate Palestinian government chosen through a democratic election. In this regard, we pin our hopes on the democratic capacity of the Palestinians.... The ‘land for peace’ principle of the Oslo Peace Accords remains valid.... The biggest stumbling block [to establishing a peaceful structure in the Middle East] is not Palestinian terrorism, as the Israelis claim, but the Israeli hardliners dreams of creating a ‘glorious Israel.’ American policy leaning excessively toward Israel has also made the situation even worse. The question of whether a Middle East without Arafat can avoid remaining the world’s hot spot ultimately lies with Israel and the U.S.”
NEW ZEALAND: "Arafat's Legacy"
The Dunedin-based moderate Otago Daily Times declared (11/4): "Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's illness...has served to emphasise one thing more than any other: Arafat's crucial importance to the Palestinian cause, to the exclusion of any clear successor. That is certainly the way 75-year-old former student activist and guerrilla leader wanted it.... Even now, as Mr Arafat undergoes medical tests in Paris, he has left no individual successor, instead entrusting command if he becomes incapacitated to a triumvirate of leaders, including the former and present prime ministers.... To a certain extent, Mr Arafat's way is the Arab way. Democracy is hardly embraced in the Arab world and neither is eagerness to appoint a successor.... Despite his apparent moves towards peace, the Palestinian leader has long been suspected by his adversaries of being duplicitous.... Throughout this seemingly inexorable decline, Mr Arafat has remained resolute, declaring as recently as October 4 that, in the face of an Israeli incursion into northern Gaza, Palestinian fighters would never surrender.... Unfortunately, the Arafat legacy is more fitting to embattled guerrilla leader than Palestinian statesman."
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
INDIA: "A Legacy In Limbo"
Centrist The Indian Express wrote (11/6): "Arafat symbolized Palestine. His forlorn siege of the last few years seem to poignantly express the besieging of an entire people. One hopes that his passing away will not symbolize the passing of the cause itself... Arafat...was unable to transform the Palestinian Authority into an internally credible institution. The Palestinians are thus left today with a real succession crisis. It is difficult to predict what this crisis will bring. It could create an internecine succession battle that strengthens the hand of groups like Hamas. Or, more optimistically, this phase of contention might generate an autonomous politics within Palestine that is not overshadowed by as mercurial a figure as Arafat. But Israeli actions have placed West Bank and Gaza so much under siege that it is too presumptuous to hope for the emergence of an autonomous political space inside the Occupied Territories. How will Palestinians come to terms with the Arafat's legacy? They will not doubt his ardor for their cause or its justice. But many will wonder whether Arafat considerably overreached his powers. The deck was stacked against the Palestinians. The Israelis had overwhelming force on their side. The Americans were always partisan. And Palestine's Arab friends were more interested in using Palestine as pawns, rather than concerned about the plight of the Palestinians. Under such circumstances was Arafat right to reject the deal Barak offered? Did Arafat leave the Palestinians an achievable cause or an impossible dream? Much will depend on how Palestinians answer this question."
"Who After Arafat?"
Nationalist The Hindustan Times editorialized (11/6): "Palestinians may soon be forced to find a new helmsman to lead their struggle. But the big question is who? Mr. Arafat has never groomed a clear political heir, or encouraged institutional arrangements to appoint a successor.... The consequences of Mr. Arafat's death may be less disconcerting than may analysts fear. At most, his death would make explicit that which has been implicit for quite a while; the deep divisions with in the Palestinian leadership. Still, it's doubtful if any of these leaders would want an actual violent power struggle to develop, as it would further the political ambitions of the militant Hamas. The Intifiada, and the accompanying closure of occupied territories, have put Palestinian society under great pressure, and the fear was that if Arafat is driven into exile, killed, or loses all control in the Palestinian areas, there would be a surge of violence. But no way he now appears more likely to pass away due to natural causes."
BANGLADESH: "A Future Without Arafat"
Independent English-language Bangladesh Observer commented (11/8): "As there is no clear line of succession for the Palestinian Authority any fear for the health of the Palestinian leader serves to emphasize the quandary facing the Palestinian leadership because he has not designated a successor. This is not the only problem as there are clearly several centers of power in the occupied territories. One is of course the older generation led by PLO Secretary General Maoud Abbas, who have been close to Arafat and returned to the territories with him in 1994. Another is the local leaders like former security chief Mohammed Dahlan and intifada leader Marwan Barghouti, currently in an Israeli jail. Therefore, should elections be delayed the risk of the Palestinian Authority leadership crumbling increases and will in turn evolve into chaos and violence. Under such conditions, the resulting political vacuum will be filled by Hamas which is reported to be highly organized and united - but inevitably this would make negotiations with Israel a virtual impossibility. Either way, dark days are ahead for a Palestine without Arafat."
"Flickering Palestinian Hope"
Independent English-language Bangladesh Observer commented (11/7): "The man, who has long been a symbol of Palestinian struggle for freedom and had many close shaves with death, is now fighting death.... Now the inevitable question that will be asked is, who is going to take over the charge? While his enemies who have wanted his elimination and are rejoicing now will realize that it is time they paid due honor to the man. The best way of doing this is to reach a durable solution to the world’s one of the oldest conflicts."
BRAZIL: "New Chance For An Agreement Between Israel And The Palestinians"
Business-oriented Valor Economico editorialized (11/9): "The removal of Yasser Arafat from the political scene opens a new era of challenges and definitions to both Israel and the Islamic movements under the PLO and the Palestinian Authority.... George W. Bush's reelection may produce further diplomatic initiatives to abandon the two-year cycle of attacks and radicalism on both sides. With Bush in the White House, the Israeli government will continue to have carte blanche for its actions in the occupied territories. However, the U.S. president is facing a very bad situation in Iraq, and if it succeeds in making the January elections feasible, he may try to carry out another initiative to reduce the Islamic regimes' total hatred towards U.S. actions in the Middle East.... Peace between Palestinians and Israel is vital to stop terrorist actions, which today have impacted the whole world. To leave the interminable cycle of blood and hate that involves all the Middle East, a decisive U.S. action to force negotiations between the parties as well as Israel's quick withdrawal from the occupied territories is vital.... Bush's reelection, however, does not make such a course appear probable."
"Arafat's Obsolete Feudal Society"
Senior editor for independent daily Der Standard Hans Rauscher commenteed (11/9): "It is to Arafat's credit that he put the Palestinian people that had largely disappeared from public consciousness back on the agenda of an unwilling international community. However, when he was given 'autonomy' over a fraction of the original settlement region (the West Bank and Gaza are 22 percent of the former British mandate 'Palestine'), instead of making it into a modern Arabic state, he turned it into a traditional oriental authoritarian regime: Personality cult, repression of civil liberties, intransparent Byzanthine power structures, corrupted elites, wallowing in grand but unrealistic rhetoric, lack of self-criticism, lack of open debate. The reason the Israelis have so far prevailed in any conflict with the Arabs lies in the fact that they are an open society. Already the founding of the state of Israel marked a victory of the modern state over the provincial feudal society.... In the final analysis, Arafat's deficits were those of the entire Arabic world. Perhaps his death will pave the way for political leaders that fit into the 21st Century, at least among the Palestinians."
CANADA: "Arafat Embodied A People's Hope"
The liberal Toronto Star opined (11/10): "Beginning today, U.S. President Bush must turn Arafat's departure into a fresh start. Bush, who envisaged a viable Palestinian state by 2005, has just received a renewed mandate to broker the Mideast peace. New Palestinian leaders must dedicate themselves to the "peace of the brave" that Arafat often invoked, but failed to deliver. They will need political and economic support from the U.S., its allies and Arab states to assert their authority, disarm extremists and quell incitement and terror. Sharon, too, must reroute his security fence out of Palestinian areas, as he plans a Gaza pullout that will boost Israel's security. He must be challenged if he claims to have no partner for peace. Israelis must also come to terms with a Palestinian state that includes sovereignty over most of Jerusalem's Arab areas and the West Bank as well as Gaza to realize peace. Arafat's exit can be a new beginning, if both sides want it to be."
"Life Without Arafat"
The conservative National Post opined (11/8): "Arafat's death, which reports suggest will come any day, would be the greatest boon to Middle East peace hopes since Anwar Sadat's courageous overtures of the 1970s. His subjects are hardly blind to the ruin his policies have caused. But emotionally felt loyalties die hard. And it has long been clear that Palestinians will not transfer their allegiances to more civilized men until the Reaper himself supplies his imprimatur. This death watch comes at a crucial juncture. Israel will soon begin moving its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip, leaving a power vacuum that Palestinians themselves must fill. Gazans will effectively be handed statehood by default, and what they do with it will go a long way toward showing the world what a Palestinian state in the much larger West Bank would look like. For decades, the Palestinians - indeed, the entire Arab world - have laid their problems at the feet of the Zionist bogeyman. In Gaza, at least, that will no longer be possible.... Arafat's death will no doubt provoke dramatic outpourings of grief among ordinary Palestinians. But historians of the Middle East will likely take a very different view. After decades of murder and manipulation, the people of the West Bank and Gaza have finally been rid of the one man who's done more than anyone else on Earth to thwart the dream of a sovereign Palestinian homeland."
"An Enemy Of Peace"
The nationalist Ottawa Citizen editorialized (11/5): "With his sunglasses and sidearm, Yasser Arafat, now reportedly near death in a Paris hospital, for years enjoyed a certain celebrity as the archetypal revolutionary. History, though, will remember him as the father of a movement that, to its own detriment, developed the techniques of modern terrorism.... Mr. Arafat failed to prepare his people for peace. He cruelly promoted the delusion that Israel is but a temporary blight. Even if a moderate emerges as the next Palestinian leader, the toxic effects of Mr. Arafat's tenure will linger. Too many young Palestinian minds have been poisoned. What a tragedy."
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