With Yasser Arafat’s recent death and no obvious successor in place, a bitter battle for leadership among divided Palestinian factions is likely, according to Asma Afsaruddin, a Middle East expert from the University of Notre Dame.
The situation is complicated, she notes, by the fact that many Palestinians regarded Arafat as more than just a political leader – hewas seen as the father of their nation, a national icon who symbolized their hopes for an independent Palestinian state.
“For the longest time, Palestinian hopes for self-determination were centered on Arafat as the man who, more than anyone else, could credibly claim to speak on their behalf,” said Afsaruddin, associate professor of Middle East studies and faculty fellow in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
“No single person emerges with as much charisma, political grit, and popular appeal, which does not bode well for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, at least in the near future,” Afsaruddin said.
Though Arafats image has been tarnished in recent years due what has been considered his failure to curb attacks on Israeli citizens and his unreliability in negotiations toward a peace settlement, he always will remain a heroic, larger-than-life figure, according to Afsaruddin. And legends are difficult to replace.
Peace prospects appear grim in the immediate future, she said, but talks eventually could resume “with the emergence of a strong, credible leader who enjoys a decent popular mandate and is acceptable to all sides.”
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