Finally, after two weeks of being mostly dead, the arch-terrorist Arafat is finally fully dead. The eulogies have already started, and as would be expected many attempt to whitewash his legacy
and who he really was. While Jeff Jacoby accurately assesses
In a better world, the PLO chief would have met his end on a gallows, hanged for mass murder much as the Nazi chiefs were hanged at Nuremberg. In a better world, the French president would not have paid a visit to the bedside of such a monster. In a better world, George Bush would not have said, on hearing the first reports that Arafat had died, "God bless his soul."
others miss the point. Lee Hockstader of the Washington Post writes
For virtually his entire adult life, Yasser Arafat had one dream, and he pursued it with such energy and zeal -- some would say fanaticism -- that he came to personify the dream itself.
The dream was of self-determination and statehood for the Palestinian people, and in the end he did not live to see it.
But that wasn't Arafat's dream; if it had been he would have had a Palestinian state a long time ago. His dream, which he clearly expressed in Arabic, if not in English, was the destruction of Israel. He was the father of modern terrorism, and as such bears much of the responsibility for the continuing terrorist attacks around the world. May he rot in hell for all eternity.
More importantly, what happens now? The main question is who will take over as leader of the Palestinians. Elections are promised within 60 days, but the two main politicians, Abu Mazen and Abu Ala, have virtually no popular backing. More crucially, they have very little control over the security apparatus and therefore will be able to do nothing to rein in the terrorists. If one of them is elected, and is not able to bring in a strongman like Dahlan, the Territories will devolve into complete anarchy and warlordism. This is probably not that bad of a situation for Israel, since the warlords will be fighting each other, and will be able to be manipulated against each other by Israel. At the same time, such a development would once again show that the Palestinians are incapable of self-government and that there does not exist a viable partner for negotiations.
Another alternative is that Hamas gets a large number of votes, and is then part of the new Palestinian leadership. Given that the US classifies them as a terrorist organization, it will be interesting to see how the US would then look on the Palestinian Authority. My feeling is that the State Department would attempt to overlook the terrorist nature of the PA, like they have been doing for a long time.
Either way, not much will change in the security situation. However, it seems that the main upshot of Arafat's death will be an increased pressure on Israel to negotiate with the new leadership and halt construction of the security barrier. Jed Babbin writes about some other probable effects
This will once again be a big test of Bush's doctrine regarding terrorism and the states that support them. We will see if his support of Israel was just a tactical ploy to bring in the Evangelical and Jewish vote, or whether he will have the courage of his convictions. In large part, this could depend on who will be Secretary of State and National Security Advisor. The pressure on him to extract concessions from Israel will be immense and will come not just from the EU and the UN, which can be ignored, but also from steadfast allies like Tony Blair to whom Bush owes a debt for his support in Iraq. On Bush being able to resist such pressure I am hopeful, but not entirely optimistic.