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From the February 2002 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 49, No. 2)


Arafat's Future

Views from 11 newspapers in 11 countries

Jakarta Tempo (independent weekly), Dec. 17-23: Will the Palestinian-Israeli problem lead to peace or war if [President Yasser] Arafat is removed?...It is feared that if the Palestinian Authority is not in Arafat’s hands..., the Palestine-Israel conflict will worsen and will finally end in armed conflict or even an open war... [that] will easily trigger involvement of other Middle Eastern countries.

Panama City La Prensa (independent), Dec. 14: Yasser isn’t recognized by Israel as a valid spokesman. Much was promised [by Arafat], but very little was done to control...the extremist Palestinian organizations. This reality can be interpreted as a lack of good faith by Arafat, but it can just as well be thought that he doesn’t have the power to make them obey.

Cairo Al-Akhbar (government-owned), Dec. 12: While the Palestinian president is exposed to enormous pressure to prevent his people from acting in self-defense, Israeli occupation forces continue to strike at Palestinian civilians....The Israeli government has put in motion a plan to undermine the Palestinian Authority, seeking to eliminate Palestinian resistance leaders and then depose President Arafat himself. They do all this, and then they ask Arafat to help them take aim at what they call Palestinian militants so that Israel can recognize him as the leader of the Palestinian people and be sure he is qualified to sit with Israeli negotiators at the table. This begs the question: What would they be negotiating?...Arafat’s departure?
—Mohamed al-Shamma

Athens Kathimerini (conservative), Dec. 8: If Arafat cannot guarantee the safety of his people, why would he guarantee the Israelis’ safety? If the West continues to pressure Arafat to help Israel, it will endanger his future, as well as the possibility of finding a formula to keep Israelis secure, while also finding a solution for the Palestinians.

Singapore The Straits Times (independent), Dec. 14: Israel should be persuaded to allow Mr. Arafat more time to neutralize, as best as he can, the most destructive elements in the Palestinian resistance. He should get credit for trying. Poor man—it is hard enough getting his police to arrest hotheads when police stations are under Israeli fire; it is doubly grating when his efforts are trivialized by Israel as a sham....[Arafat] needs the understanding of the United States now more than ever.

Oslo Aftenposten (conservative), Dec. 11: It is uncertain whether Arafat will allow himself to be replaced by his many “crown pretenders”..., whom he has consciously played off against each other. Many people have had their fingers burned in writing off the legendary Palestinian leader. In any case Israel faces the basic problem of the conflict: 3 million Palestinians live under Israeli occupation, and most of them are ready to fight [the Israelis].
—Harald Stanghelle

Dhaka Daily Star (independent), Dec. 12: A frustrated Ehud Barak called Arafat a terrorist. Is he talking about the man he supped with just a year ago at Camp David in the benign presence of President Bill Clinton? Did Tony Blair have long meetings with a terrorist only a few weeks ago? Or did Arafat briefly retire from terrorism and has now returned to it...? As one perceptive diplomat said, “the world’s leaders no longer feel accountable for the language they use.”
—M.J. Akbar

Mexico City Proceso (liberal newsmagazine), Dec. 9: Arafat is trapped between two fires. Even though for the international community, he is the No. 1 interlocutor in the Middle East, his leadership and his capacity to control the situation have begun to be seriously questioned—even though many recognize that he is the only person who can prevent a civil war among Palestinians.
—Sanjuana Martínez

Tel Aviv Ha’aretz (liberal), Dec. 17:
Despite all his faults, Yasser Arafat is the only leader with whom there is still any chance at all of coming to a peace settlement. This is not a guess or a wish, but rather an assessment that is based on the fact that Arafat, though he has been considerably weakened of late, remains the only one among the Palestinians who is managing to maintain the prestige that any leader needs to lead his people to concessions.
—Danny Rubinstein

Havana Juventud Rebelde (newspaper of the Communist Youth Union), Dec. 14: Perhaps Sharon’s alarming arrogance and his tendency to ignore Washington can explain why Washington has continued to ratify Arafat’s leadership. But its weak recognition fails to hide the double nature of a policy based on unconditional support for Israel. The consequences of that support will be unavoidable.
— Marina Menéndez Quintero

New Delhi Hindustan Times (centrist), Dec. 4: [Arafat] is powerless to progress on the diplomatic front unless the international community—read Washington—puts pressure on Israel to make necessary concessions for a viable Palestine. The reason is simple: Unless and until a Palestinian state is born, Arafat cannot turn on the militants; he will need all the popular Palestinian support he can muster to wage what can amount to an actual civil war.

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