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Thursday, October 28, 2004

Arafat and Israel

Most of you probably know that Yasser Arafat's health has been failing for several years. As of Sunday, things have gotten much worse for him. From my sources, it seems apparent that he is now at death’s door. It is doubtful that he’ll make it another week. He is now surrounded by all of his close friends and political comrades. His wife has been asked to come to him from Paris, where she has been living for years. Further, Palestinian leaders have asked for all of the living members of Arafat’s Fatah party who are living abroad, and who are able, to travel to Ramallah.

As of Sunday, when his latest health problems arose, he had made no plans for a successor to his position as the leader of the Palestinian Authority. There is no one of any significance waiting in the wings to fill Arafat’s position should he pass. There will no doubt be a protracted and possibly violent power struggle after Arafat is gone. It is postulated that it could take up to several years for a new, accepted leader of the Palestinians to emerge. This power vacuum will indisputably end whatever remains of an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, and it will begin a bloody series of Palestinian factional fighting.

Arafat has long held together the Palestinians and melded them into a pseudo-state. However, the truth is that “Palestinians” exist only because they live in the same geographic area. They are not a group bound by family, cultural, ethnic, or tribal loyalties. They are held together by their hatred of Israel and their desire for a free Palestine. But it is a tenuous bond. Without a strong leader to manipulate the masses, they will disintegrate into so many warring factions. I have to wonder whether, after the blood that will be shed should Arafat die, would any possible Palestinian leader be able to re-coalesce the many peoples into one? And there is one more, not as well-known, problem should Arafat depart this life.

It is widely believed that upon Arafat’s death, his family, his Party, and basically all of Palestine will demand that he be allowed to be buried in Jerusalem. Israel has been unwavering in its stance that it will not allow this to happen. This is yet one more, as if there weren’t enough, possible cause of civil unrest were Arafat to succumb to his illnesses.

Israeli forces have already been put on high alert for Palestinian riots upon Arafat’s death. The IDF today increased the garrison around Ramallah. They see the inevitable coming. The only real question is, when Mr. Arafat dies, how far will the chaos really go.

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