There seem to be conflicting reports coming out of Paris today concerning the condition of Yasir Arafat. If he is not already dead, he likely will be soon. The Israeli government seems to be preparing for worst case scenarios, including widespread rioting in Gaza and the occupied territories. Palestinian authorities, including SAeb Erekat, seem to be taking a rather cautious apporach to announcing developments in the Chairman's situation, which generally leads me to believe the worst.
In a way, Sharon and the US are getting exactly what they have wanted for a long time. Of course, the same applies for many Palestinians, who have long held that Arafat is not the best man for the job so to speak. I tend to agree with them. Among such Palestinians, we find both the preogressive, pro-democratic movements, which had previouly been epitomized by Edward Said, as well as the less-savoury elements in the conflicts, by which I mean the beards.
The crucial elements at play are this: Bush's reelection means that he is likely to pursue the same radical shift in policy that he introduced in the Rose Garden Earlier this year, that is to admit to a significant change of the ground situation, admitting the permanence of a certain pecentage of Israeli settlements. This was also significant in that the decision to alter a long standing policy was done without arafat even being invited to the table. The death of Arafat will likely perpetuate this kind of one-sided diplomacy, at least until a legitimate center can be established within the PA.
The other likely outcome of this will be the splintering of Hamas into a radical armed faction, and one that will attempt to broaden the agenda and seek legitimate political authority. I won't place a time frame on this, it may be a rather rapid process, being that the destruction of Hamas Leadership has already weakened its overall cohesion. Is it possible that Hamas does not take the road of groups like SinnFein or the Akali DAl? Of course, but I doubt it. The fact is that Arafat has for a long time now been losing legitimate authority over security operations because Hamas has been in the ascendant. Hamas also knows that once it can attain proper political authority, it can no longer be held to the margins by either the Israelis or the international community. The difficulty lies in making a clean break with militant operations, which would otherwise mar the legitimacy of political operatives.
wait and see, that is the lesson of the day . . .