Arafat death could help peace process

After spending more than aweek in a Paris hospital with abrain hemorrhage, 75-year-oldPalestinian leader Yasser Arafathas died.The Associated Press reportedthat Tayeb Abdel Rahim,a top Arafat aide, confirmedthat Arafat died Thursday at4:30 a.m. Paris time.Funeral plans are underwayand speculations regardingArafat’s successor abound.Along with the majority ofthe world’s Middle East analysts,experts at the U arespeculating as to how Araf at’sdeath will affect the Arab-Israeliconflict and who will bethe next Palestinian leader.Effect on the conflict”I think Arafat the eff ectiveleader died a long time ago,”said Ibrahim Karawan, directorof the Middle East Center.”My judgment is that heshould have opted out earlierbecause his political performanceleft a lot to be desired;his comprehension, in a sense,left a lot to be desired duringthe last five years.”U student Anwar Arafatlived in Palestine for nineyears and met Yasser Arafat,who was personal friends withAnwar Arafat’s father.Anwar Arafat agreed thatYasser Arafat had become lesspopular, even among his ownpeople in the last few years.”Part of the Oslo Agreementis that he had to imprisonmany of the people who wereenrolled in Hamas and IslamicJihad and so forth,” AnwarArafat said. “They abused thatauthority and started imprisoningpeople, torturing them.There were corruption andmoney scandals.”Anwar said the peopledidn’t always look at Arafat ina negative light.”Yasser Arafat, throughoutthe ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, was allfor standing up against the occupationsby means of forceand through military,” AnwarArafat said. “He changed hisstance to say peace works, too.We saw Oslo and Wye Riverand Camp David.”As president of the Palestinianpeople, Arafat was notwidely recognized by two ofthe other major players in thepeace process-the UnitedStates and Israel.”If the Americans and Israelisobject to Arafat playinga leading role, then Arafatwill be paralyzed-he hasbeen paralyzed,” Karawansaid. “Arafat had a lot of commandand legitimacy. Thefact that American ForeignPolicy didn’t like him doesn’tmean he was an insignificantperson. He was misguided attimes, but that’s different. Hewas not irrelevant.”Any future leader will likelyface the same response fromboth the United States and Israel.”Those successors may havemore constraints on their abilityto bring negotiations, anda good part of it is how Israelwill deal with successors,”Karawan said.He added that Israelis andtheir Prime Minister ArielSharon have two basic options:to play on contra dictions or tosee the situation with historicvision.Anwar Arafat said YasserArafat’s death will actuallyhave more of an effect on Israeland may force Israeli leadersto cooperate with Palestine.”The people who are in powermostly oppose talks becauseof Arafat,” he said. “They alwayshave that way out of thepeaceful resolution. They justsay [Yasser] Arafat supports terrorism,even though he has nocontrol over them anymore, butnow they won’t have an excuse.They’ll e ither hav e to come upwith another one or just go withthe peace resolution.”The role of the United Stateswill have a similar impact onthe peace talks.”America will say the presidentmust take a leading rolein this matter,” Karawan said.America is likely to encourageconcessions in Gaza as afirst but not last step.”Let us proceed toward Gazaand then we will see the levelof principles of that and giveeconomic assistance to Palestiniansas a society so that radicalswould not have a conduciveatmosphere for agitation,”Karawan said.Anwar Arafat said Americawill likely develop a morefriendly policy toward Palestinein Yasser Arafat’s absence.”They’ll look at it as a freshstart,” Anwar Arafat said.”There will be a new look tothe world and more appeal tothe international community.I wouldn’t be surprised aboutattempts for more peace talks,but I can’t speculate on the resultsof those talks.”Karawan says further violencewill only hinder peace.”It requires vision and calculation.Those people who continueto say that the way to gois to blow up more pizza placesin Israel will not contribute tomaking things easier. They’regoing to invite an Israeli retaliationand an atmosphere ofmutual suspicion, which willpresent mutual determinationto cause pain on the otherside,” he continued.Two other players in theconflict that must be examinedare the Palestinian movementsof Hamas, and to a lesser extent,Islamic Jihad.Karawan said the roles ofthese two organizations willbe determined by the positionsthey adopt.”Will it be a posture that isdeemed to make the successorhave a greater chance of success?”he asked.Whatever the result, it looksunlikely that the death ofYasser Arafat will yield anyground-shattering results, butthere could be slight changes,whether for better or worse.”We tend to exaggerate aboutwhat happens in society,” Karawansaid. “Maybe a changefrom Arafat would be a changefor the better if his successoris somebody who has courage,who has resolve, who has visionand if the collective leadershipallows that person.”However tragic Yasser Arafat’sdeath may be, especiallyfor Palestinians, the situationmight create opportunities.”A more fluid situation couldbe reached, and fluid situationsare the ones in which eitherpossible breakthroughs orincremental problems couldbe made,” Karawan said.Overall, it seems that Arafat’sdeath will have less of animpact on the peace processthan the reactions of the variousparties involved.”The disappearance of theman himself does not have,by itself, that kind of impact,”Karawan said. “It depends onhow it is related to, assessed,evaluated and acted upon tocreate conditions by leadersand by societies as well.”Potential LeadersKarawan compared the situationwith Arafat to that of formerEgyptian President GamalAbdel-Nasser.After his reign, Egyptians believedthere would be no life,but they were surprised by hissuccessor, Anwar Sadat.Karawan said Palestinianleaders had a long meeting lastThursday to discuss the futureof Palestine.”Obviously I have no accessto the meeting or the peoplein the meeting,” Karawan said.”But the idea, I think, is thatthey were visited by the PrimeMinister, Ahmed Qorei, who,along with Abu Mazen, is oneof the most astute leaders inthe Palestinian camp.”Anwar Arafat agreed thatAhmed Qorei and Abu Mazen,also known as Mahmoud Abbas,were two of three likelycandidates for the new leadershiprole.”Probably the three peoplewhowent to Paris two days ago[would be the most likely successors],”he said. “Either NabilSha’ath or Qorei or MahmoudAbbas, one of those three.”Both Qorei and Abu Mazenwere Arafat supporters, butwere not able to emerge asleaders because of the mannerin which Arafat operated.”You could be a supporterfor the rest of your life if youwork with him, but if you entertainillusions that you c ouldplay an independent leadingrole, then you were dropped,”Karawan said. “Not by killingbut by discrediting them incatching them in corruptionand using it against them.”Qorei and Abu Mazen, fromthe political level, are consideredthe most important figures,but there are also somesecurity authorities who couldaffect the outcome.”Currently, there’s a personnamed Musa Arafat whois related to [Yasser] Arafat,”Karawan said. “But nobodytakes him seriously in Palestinianpolitics. He is an intelligencechief who is good withusing listening devices, but hedoesn’t inspire any enthusiasm.”Another security figurementioned is Jibril Rajoub,who many Palestinians haverelated to as a thug for a verylong time. He both agreed anddisagreed with Arafat on certainissues.”He’s very tough, smart andhe plays tough games,” Karawansaid. “He’s the HenryKissinger of Yasser Arafat, orhe claims to be, but obviouslyhe has not studied national securityissues and internationalrelations issues as Kissingerdid.”Yet another candidate forPalestinian president is MohammedDahlan, who was thesecurity chief. Yasser Arafatgot rid of him because he g ottoo close to Abu Mazen andinfringed upon Yasser Arafat’spower. Americans and Israelisbegan to talk about Dahlan as apossible successor.”He is smarter than all therest,” Karawan said. “He understandsthe rationale of politics.He understands the horizonsof what can be achieved,but also the limits. He’s reflectiveof things and has thoughtabout them. He’s thought aboutArafat’s mistakes, but was notgiven a chance.”Dahlan and Rajoub get alongwith their Israeli counterpartsand have exchanged informationwith them. They are familiarwith what Karawan called”the shadowy world.””Some operations have beenintercepted and prevented,”Karawan said. “They cannotrule, but they can tip thescales in favor of one of theother players who are moresenior with leadership in theFatah movement, which wantsto continue to have a leadingrole. They can tip the scalesbecause [Palestine] still needssecurity.”In the end, it is likely that acollection of individuals willemerge as Palestine’s newleadership. A heated contestwill likely occur.”You are going to have a coalitionwith a senior personhaving a leader role,” Karawansaid. “There will be a struggle…and then they may decide on acandidate and settle their differences.”A senior member of Fatahwill likely become presidentfor 16 days prior to a GeneralElection, but Anwar Arafatquestioned whether an electioncould be held at this time.”I don’t know how he wouldbe chosen,” he said. “It’d bepretty tough for an electionright now. I could see an electionhappening, probably inthe future, but right now Ithink they’ll choose a temporarypresident or interim government.”Karawan said the strugglefor the presidency will manifestitself in the period of uncertaintythat will likely comein the following [email protected]