Mideast Contemplates Arafat Exit

(Chicago Tribune) - Joel Greenberg The long-term incapacitation or death of Arafat raises fears of division and chaos in the Palestinian territories, but it also offers the possibility of renewed peace efforts with a new Palestinian leadership and a more productive dynamic in the Palestinians' relations with Israel and the U.S. "I believe that this will make it possible for a different Palestinian leadership to grow up free from the dark shadow of Yasser Arafat, who prevents any possibility of dialogue," Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio." Some believe Arafat's Fatah movement would lose ground to more militant factions. The radical Hamas and Islamic Jihad, responsible for the bloodiest suicide bombings against Israelis, could increase their power, especially in the Gaza Strip. "It is not at all clear that when he goes, so will Arafat-ism," said Mark Heller of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. "You have to ask why Arafat has been able to maintain his position if it does not represent some critical mass of Palestinian political thinking and culture." Khalil Shikaki, a Palestinian pollster and analyst, said he expected more of the problems that have plagued Arafat's style of government. "There will be a deepening of the paralysis, a deepening of the stagnation with no sense of direction," Shikaki said. "Just because Arafat is gone doesn't mean that all the problems of the old guard, the lack of capacity and dysfunction, will just disappear."

2004-11-01 00:00:00

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