The Post-Arafat Scene

(Jerusalem Post) - Barry Rubin It is extremely unlikely that there will be a single new leader, at least for some years to come. If there is a collective leadership, it will include people of very different viewpoints who will not be able to agree on changing the status quo. The chances of a Palestinian civil war are very low. It is hard to have a civil war when there are 10 different factions. No one has enough power to believe they can win. And if anyone tries to take over, all the other groups will align against them. There are people in the leadership who genuinely understand the mess into which Arafat has led the Palestinians. They know that a compromise peace is the only way out of their current dead-end. Unfortunately, there are even more activists who believe in revolution until victory and think the struggle should go on until Israel is destroyed, or at least defeated enough to make massive unilateral concessions. Still others are opportunists and careerists who will go along with the consensus - which is still an extremely radical one - to preserve their privileges. Offering compromises, 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. 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 another nail in the coffin of peace hopes. 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.

2004-10-29 00:00:00

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