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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 November, 2004, 12:37 GMT
Mid-East press reflects on Arafat legacy

On the day that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat dies, newspapers in the Middle East consider the future of the peace process without him.

Apart from praise for the dead leader in the Arabic and Iranian press, concern is expressed over the transition of power and the role of more radical organisations like Hamas in the process.

Most Israeli commentators believe the end of the Arafat era offers a fresh opportunity for peace in the region.

Arafat had an impact on the life of every one of the 200 Arabs more than any other Arab leader, negatively or positively. The moderate Palestinian leader was the one who consolidated moderation in the whole region.

Pan-Arab al-Sharq al-Awsat

Sad Palestine has never been as sad as it is today.

Saudi Arabia's al-Jazirah

The dialogue with the Islamic resistance movement's [Hamas] leadership in this delicate stage has special importance. Any Hamas presence in the leadership would require it to play the democratic game. The elections are the only way to guarantee the Palestinians preserve their national cohesion.

Palestinian al-Ayyam

With Arafat and his galvanising effect gone for ever, the evolving Palestinian leadership would be less able and probably less inclined to confront Hamas head-on. Such an impetuous and reckless measure would portray the leadership as working in cahoots with the Israelis against Palestinian interests. Even the appearance of collaborating with the Israelis or Americans against Hamas is the last thing the new post-Arafat leadership would want to see.

Iran's Iran Daily

We cannot downplay the role of this man, who shouldered the responsibility of fighting for his people's usurped rights for 40 years. Yasser Arafat, regardless of some people's quarrel with him, is the epitome of an heroic struggle.

United Arab Emirates' al-Bayan

Arafat was an excellent historic personality. Had he not had special abilities, he would have collapsed at the first hurdle.

Oman's al-Watan

Yasser Arafat has died as he lived - in chaos, confusion, amid a thick smoke of lies, half-truths, contradictions and a stubborn refusal to look reality straight in the eyes. Arafat leaves behind no spiritual or political legacy; he leaves behind a scorched earth. His death will not cause chaos in the Palestinian Authority, but the opposite. When the shock is over, stability and normalcy are expected there.

Israel's Yediot Aharonot

The end of Yasser Arafat's reign creates a new situation in Israel's relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) - one fraught with opportunities that are important to exploit. Until now, [Israeli] Prime Minister Ariel Sharon justified his decision to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank by the absence of a Palestinian partner for diplomatic negotiations and an agreement. Now, the government must re-examine its policy.

Implementing the disengagement by agreement with the PA would ensure a smooth transfer of responsibility for the vacated territory, make it easier to prevent attacks during the complex evacuation and provide an opening for continuing diplomatic negotiations aimed at an agreement that would enjoy broad international support in accordance with the roadmap.

Israel's Haaretz

Israel's mission to keep Arafat from being buried in Jerusalem is effectively being waged not against him (he's beyond caring) but rather against his posterity - the Palestinian people - and the new Palestinian leadership headed by Abu Mazen [Mahmud Abbas]. How can they possibly take Israel's behaviour as anything but an act of spite against them, the living - a gesture to remind them that Israel controls not only how they live, but even how they die?

This is really not the time for us to smack the Palestinians in the face for no practical reason. It was fair for Israelis to hate Arafat - he definitely earned it - but now we're trying to turn over a new page with his nation, aren't we? By Israeli accounts, Abu Mazen sincerely wants to stop terror. Does Israel's handling of Arafat's burial seem like the act of a country whose hand, as we like to say, is outstretched to the Palestinians in peace?

Israel's Jerusalem Post

One of Sharon's biggest political achievements has been his success in convincing [US President George] Bush that Yasser Arafat is an obstacle to peace. Now, it will be very difficult for Sharon and for Israel to make a convincing argument that nothing has changed on the Palestinian side.

Israel' Maariv

The Israeli government has already decided on a unilateral pullout from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. The end of Arafat's era does not change this basic situation. As long as we believe that the Palestinians will agree to the establishment of a mini-state of one hectare here, another there, the bloody conflict between the peoples will continue. Although we will not miss him, it is possible that the day after his departure will be gloomier.

Israel's Yediot Aharonot

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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