I suppose Yasir Arafat’s death and the reaction on “the Palestinian street” will give rise to a few discussions about the concept of political “irrelevance”. Benny Morris starts.
Writing in the New York Times, the recently turned hawkish Israeli historian and author of “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem“, is already missing the man, in spite of his past.
Mr. Arafat’s death most certainly will result in a succession struggle, between the generations inside the Fatah and between the Fatah and the Islamic fundamentalist parties (which may lead to complete anarchy in the Hamas stronghold of Gaza). But it is unclear whether it will bring the Middle East any closer to peace. His disappearance removes a major rejectionist obstacle from the scene.
But it also leaves us with a paradox. For Mr. Arafat was probably the only Palestinian of our time, given his historical and political stature, capable of persuading the Palestinians, or most of them, to accept the concessions necessary to achieve a two-state solution. On the other hand, his successors – Mahmoud Abbas, Ahmed Qurei and some of the younger Fatah leaders – may be more amenable to a territorial compromise but they lack the stature to intimidate or persuade their people to accept a two-state settlement or to crush their terror-minded colleagues. So Yasir Arafat’s death may have done us no good at all.