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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November, 2004, 09:35 GMT
Press ponders life after Arafat

Palestinian papers portray the ailing Yasser Arafat as a revolutionary leader who is both symbol and myth. And they see a future fraught with danger if he dies.

But some also insist the Palestinian cause is greater that the fate of an individual.

In Israel, commentators are under no illusion that the region faces a turning point, which could either lead to a new beginning, or to more of the same.

The Palestinian adherence to Arafat as a symbol came about because this man is a rare model for Palestinians through his determination to achieve his aims... The Palestinians are going through difficult moments of anticipation that require awareness and wisdom about the dangers in the next phase... Especially about the plans being prepared by the other side.

Editorial in Palestinian Al-Quds

Unless we do something about it, our situation will explode and chaos will descend... This is because no-one has authority over anyone else... We need international sponsorship, so that we will not slide towards the worst. It is true that our president is sick. However, the sickness should not be passed on to our people and institutions.

Commentary by Hafith al-Barghuthi in Palestinian Al-Hayat al-Jadidah

Arafat roamed the world the way no other revolutionary leader did. He ran his revolution when he was present as well as when he was absent... He has made his siege in the presidential compound a myth... But the Palestinian people is bigger than all its leaderships in the past, present and future.

Commentary by Hasan al-Batal in Palestinian Al-Ayyam

Eight centuries ago, Richard the Lionheart fell ill and his doctors could not find a cure. And when the leader, Salah al-Din al-Aiubi, heard of his illness, he did not hesitate to send him his doctor... However, we now find the Israeli leadership dancing and gloating over the sickness of its enemy... As if getting rid of him will end the problem it has created with its own hands.

Commentary by Faruq Wadi in Palestinian Al-Ayyam

Arafat's departure presents Israel with several dilemmas... The first test is the funeral arrangements. Sharon is firmly opposed to Arafat's burial on Temple Mount. He also opposes, for now, allowing the Palestinians to bury him in [Jerusalem suburb] Abu Dis... Sharon is walking a thin rope in this matter. If he humiliates Abu Mazin [PLO Secretary-General Mahmoud Abbas] and Abu Ala [Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei] he will cause immense damage to the chance of stabilising relations after Arafat's departure.

Commentary by Nahum Barnea in Israel's Yediot Aharonot

We are approaching a road junction. The first: a great chance to take another route regarding the Palestinians. The second: a return to the era of chaos and great, missed opportunities. Which route will we take? It is in our hands.

Commentary by Alex Fishman in Israel's Yediot Aharonot

Sharon is losing Arafat and suddenly gets two old friends: Abu Mazin and Abu Ala. He knows both of them, somehow he respects them, he negotiated with both and offered one of them [Abu Ala] a Palestinian state in 1997. Now this has become relevant again. Sharon needs to grow into this situation, to overcome his basic instinct and try to turn the disengagement into a new, brave, hope-raising move... This is the time to draw conclusions and learn lessons... Everything depends on them and on us.

Commentary by Ben Kaspit in Israel's Ma'ariv

Arafat's departure from the Palestinian leadership, regardless of when doctors pronounce his death, creates a new reality in the territories... In the new reality, Israel must set new rules of conduct and perhaps even a new policy... Clearly, Israel must do everything to restrain military activity. The IDF [Israel Defence Forces] must only react to clear, immediate 'ticking bombs' that may endanger the lives of Israelis... Even more important, Arafat's departure opens a possibility to turn the disengagement from being a unilateral Israeli move into a fully coordinated one with the new Palestinian leadership.

Commentary by Ze'ev Schiff in Israel's Ha'aretz

Arafat is the shadow who follows us, and the stations of his life - from the Arab revolt to the Al-Aqsa Intifada - are the stations of our lives in reverse... We walk, and with us walks our shadow - the Palestinian people. We beat the shadow with a big stick but it doesn't leave us alone. What will we do when the sun rises and we discover that the shadow has disappeared? To whom will we give the job of the demonic villain? Nobody can fill the shoes of the person who played the role so perfectly... We need a scapegoat on whom to cast the blame for everything, and to clear our consciences.

Commentary by Meron Benvenisti in Israel's Ha'aretz

For the optimists, Arafat's demise is an opportunity to revive negotiations and to reach a quick agreement based on the two-state formula and resolving core issues such as refugee claims and shared access to Jerusalem's religious sites... But beyond wishful thinking and the deep desire for Arab-Israeli stability, there is little evidence that such a scenario is realistic. The probability that a pragmatic and broadly accepted Palestinian leader will emerge from the rubble of Arafat's divisive rule is not very high, in part because Arafat, like many other Arab rulers, blocked the appointment of a successor.

Commentary by Gerald Steinberg in Israel's Jerusalem Post

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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