blogenlust
11.08.2004

Post-Arafat


Given the fact that Yasir Arafat is on his deathbed, the optimist in me says that the possibilities for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are as good as they've been in recent years. However, there are a lot of reasons to be cautious with that optimism. In the best possible scenario, the Palestinian leadership will put forth a moderate leader, which will put pressure on the United States and Israel to work with him, since their biggest obstacle to peace is no longer there. This could open the door to renewed peace talks and usher in an era of trust that has been sorely lacking on both sides. Unfortunately, as the peace process has illustrated in the past, things aren't that cut and dry. Arafat, for all his shortcomings, is really the only Palestinian leader with the political capital to speak for all Palestinians. For any new leader to be effective, he will have to be able to rally his entire population (both domestic and exiled). The biggest roadblock to this could be Hamas. Hamas has better leadership and is more united than the PLO, and have not targeted Arafat in the past for reasons I am not sure of. However, with Arafat's death looming, it is likely that Hamas will want to have a larger and more prominent role in the Palestinian leadership. Moreover, Hamas has the ability to influence large portions of the Palestinian population, which could either be very helpful or extremely devastating to the new leader. When Arafat dies, I think Hamas' reaction will reveal whether a smooth transition is possible. Hamas' response could further influence the prospects for peace with Israel. Israel and the US will probably have a lot of conditions that the new leadership will need to meet in order for Israel to recognize its legitimacy. I guarantee that one of those conditions will be that Hamas cannot have a role in the leadership. So, if Hamas does take an active role in pursuing leadership positions, than things could get really interesting and messy. Overall, I would think that it is in the best interests of all Palestinians to get behind their new leader, even if he is not immediately accepted by the US and Israel. The consequences of running around with their heads cut off are, in the long run, more substantial than dealing with Israel when they don't accept the legitmacy of the new leadership. On the other hand, I think it is also in the best interest of the US and Israel to try as hard as they can to accept the legitimacy of the new Palestinian leadership (although I respect the possible concerns raided if Hamas takes an active leadesrhip role). With the raid on Fallujah on the way, and a continuously deteriorating situation in Iraq, a good step forward in the wake of Arafat's death would go along way for everybody.