Middle East: Fighters to the Last

The leadership of the Palestinian people has been made a central issue in the latest Middle East crisis. Yasser Arafat has a unique standing with his people and could deliver on a peace deal. But can he survive a twin attack from Israel and his own house divided?

The World Today Published 1 March 2002 Updated 23 October 2020 5 minute READ

Rosemary Hollis

Former Director, Olive Tree Israeli-Palestinian Scholarship Programme, City, University of London

Yasser Arafat has survived an attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to persuade the US administration to sever relations with him. That will not make Sharon drop his campaign to render the Palestinian leader ‘irrelevant’. However, along with Arafat, Sharon risks losing what small chances remain for a negotiated solution.

Arafat has told an Egyptian newspaper that in the event of his demise, the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Ahmed Qurie, otherwise known as Abu Ala, would act as interim President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), pending new elections. Meanwhile, according to Arafat, his chairmanship of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) would pass to his close associate and central representative in negotiations with the Israelis over the years, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).

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