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Last Updated: Monday, 22 November, 2004, 22:36 GMT
Q&A: What follows Arafat?
Yasser Arafat
Arafat has made no plans for a successor
The BBC News website looks at the key questions arising from the death of Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian cause for more than 40 years.

What does the death of Yasser Arafat mean for the Palestinian people?

Palestinians have lost their leader and the embodiment of their national cause since the 1960s.

He is credited with bringing their aspirations for independence and statehood to the centre of the world stage and keeping them there.

As an administrator, he was far less successful. The Palestinian Authority which he led is widely perceived to be corrupt and incompetent.

Despite this, he was the most popular Palestinian politician, remaining the figurehead of the national cause.

Through more than a decade of negotiation with Israel, Arafat failed to deliver his and his people's aspirations. But he was rarely blamed for this by Palestinians.

Ironically, American and Israeli calls for Palestinians to ditch their leader and attempts to isolate him may have helped Arafat in his last years.

Where might he be buried?

The plan that has emerged is for Arafat's body to be flown from Paris to Cairo for a funeral attended by Arab and other leaders before burial in Ramallah on Friday.

Arafat had expressed the desire to be buried on the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, in occupied east Jerusalem.

Israel expressly rejected this, though a senior Palestinian leader, Faisal Husseini, was buried there in 2001.

Israelis fear the symbolism of Arafat's burial in the old city of Jerusalem would reinforce Palestinian claims to the area.

Is a successor lined up?

There is no clear line of succession for the Palestinian Authority or the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the umbrella group for the Palestinian national movement.

Arafat did not designate or groom a successor, perhaps fearing that an impatient heir-apparent might be a threat to him.

Under the Palestinian Authority's basic law, the speaker of Palestinian Legislative Assembly, Rawhi Fattuh, takes over the presidency for 60 days until a new president is elected.

The traditional 40 days or mourning will be observed before politics are resumed.

However, during Arafat's illness, there were moves to set up a smooth succession.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei was assigned some of Arafat's powers, making him the effective head of the Palestinian Authority.

Mahmoud Abbas, the former Palestinian prime minister, took over the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Farouk Kaddoumi was appointed as head of Fatah - the biggest faction in the PLO and Arafat's political organisation.

Who are the candidates to succeed?

Part of the problem for Palestinians is that there are several centres of power in the occupied territories.

One is the older generation of leaders, led by Mr Qurei and Mr Abbas, who have been close to Arafat and returned to the territories with him in 1994.

Another is made up of local leaders such as former security chief Mohammed Dahlan and intifada leader Marwan Barghouti, currently in an Israeli jail.

Will there be a chaotic power struggle?

This is a possibility. In July, there was open fighting between different Palestinian factions in Gaza and the West Bank with a series of kidnappings and shootings.

Observers interpreted this as a prelude to a power struggle between the "old guard" of the Palestinian Authority and a younger generation of pro-Arafat militiamen and security force members who want the PA reformed.

A bleak view of the situation might be that, with the death of Arafat, Palestinians have lost the unifying and respected leader who held potentially warring factions at bay.

What might follow him is a fragmentation of the Palestinian cause that leaves the militant Islamic group Hamas in charge in Gaza, while Fatah in the West Bank could break up into radical and moderate factions.

Were a chaotic and possibly violent power struggle to develop, the main beneficiary is likely to be Hamas, which is highly organised and unified.

In the past, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have avoided directly attacking Arafat. They may not feel such restraint with any new leader.

What is Israel's view of these developments?

Many Israelis viewed Arafat as an inveterate terrorist and an unreliable negotiator. Some will be happy to see him gone.

He often appeared to be locked in a personal battle with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

However, a chaotic situation in the occupied territories, which might further radicalise Palestinian politics, might not suit Israel.

If the Palestinian Authority leadership disintegrates, leaving only Hamas to run the Gaza Strip, Mr Sharon might postpone his disengagement plan.

If, on the other hand, the situation were to settle quickly and a new moderate leadership emerge, the Israeli argument that there is no Palestinian party fit to negotiate with would evaporate.

Does the passing of Arafat offer any opportunities?

The Middle East road map, the closest thing to a peace process currently available, has been stalled for more than a year.

Some analysts see in the conjunction of Arafat's death, the re-election of President George W Bush and the acceptance by the Israeli parliament of Ariel Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan an opportunity for a resumption of the peace process.

Others see this as wildly optimistic.


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