Geo-Political Notes:

Arafat’s Departure

by Scott B. MacDonald

For a region already filled with political upheaval, the news that the 75-year old Yasser Arafat is dead does not bode well. This is not to say that the long-time Palestinian leader was a man of peace. Rather, the risk is that his legacy is one of chaos and civil war among the Palestinians, which has implications well beyond the confines of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Arafat is the last of the Nasserites, who came to age in the aftermath of European dominance. Like Egypt’s Nasser, Syria’s Assad and Algeria’s FLN leadership, Arafat’s orientation was Arab nationalism, socialist economics and alignment with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It is important to emphasize that this placed him in the secular camp, not the radical Islamic camp. Although he mouthed the Islamic rhetoric, his closest allies are secular and, perhaps most telling, his wife is Christian (though officially she converted to Islam but has lived in Paris with the couple’s daughter for the past three years).

The Arafat legacy cuts two ways. His stubborn nature helped create a Palestinian nation such as it is. At the same time, his stubbornness also guaranteed that the experiment in government was dysfunctional and dependent on his personality. With no clear-cut successor and a weak core of followers within his Fatah party, his departure from the West Bank for Paris leaves behind a very fluid political situation. Waiting on the sidelines is Hamas, a well-defined political movement centered around radical Islam and with a proclivity for terrorist actions. As the Arafat era appears to be drawing near, the next step is probably going to be an intense and bloody contest for leadership within the Palestinian community. This is not a positive for the Palestinians, Israelis or anyone hoping for stability in the Middle East.

Editor: Dr. Scott B. MacDonald, Sr. Consultant

Deputy Editors: Dr. Jonathan Lemco, Director and Sr. Consultant and Robert Windorf, Senior Consultant

Associate Editor: Darin Feldman

Publisher: Keith W. Rabin, President

Web Design: Michael Feldman, Sr. Consultant

Contributing Writers to this Edition: Scott B. MacDonald, Darrel Whitten, Sergei Blagov, Kumar Amitav Chaliha, Jonathan Hopfner, Jim Letourneau and Finn Drouet Majlergaard

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