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Arafat Eulogized as Keeper of Palestinian Dream

Nonetheless, tensions are reportedly running high over who will succeed Arafat. Khalid Amayreh, West Bank correspondent for aljazeera.net reported that leaders of 13 Palestinian factions and organizations, including Hamas, met Wednesday to chart the course of the Palestinian national movement. The participants rejected speculation that the Palestinians might be on the brink of civil war.

For Palestinian reformists, cleaning up after Arafat's personalistic leadership is a national priority. Khaled Duzdar, writing for the Arabic Media Internet Network says the next Palestinian leadership would have "to answer the postponed question and demands of the people," including the enforcement of law and order, an independent judiciary, elimination of corruption, the unification of the often-clashing security forces apparatus and the exposure of Arafat's secret bank accounts. Only after that, says Duzdar, should the Palestinians decide about what course to take against the Israelis.

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A Hamas spokesman said Arafat's autocratic style "would not be accepted or tolerated" from the new Palestinian leaders. The group called for "free, fair and genuine elections."

Another Hamas spokesman charged, without much evidence, that Israel had poisoned Arafat. The Egyptian Gazette , a state-controlled daily in Cairo that often exemplifies the weaknesses of the Arab press, declared Palestinians "will not rest until they know exactly what has caused their leader's death and if the Israelis were involved."

"The evidence is entirely circumstantial and probably no more than fantasy," said the more careful Al-Ahram Weeklyin Cairo, while noting that Israel had repeatedly threatened to kill Arafat.

Arafat's passing, said the editors of Beirut's Daily Starhas created the opportunity for the main parties in the conflict -- Arafat's Fatah organization, the Islamic militants of Hamas, and the militarily powerful Israeli government -- "to act with courage, even daring."

"World leaders will either transform the Arab-Israeli condition from one of warfare and wasted human potential to one of coexistence and development, based on equal rights for all," said the Daily Star, or the world's long running active armed conflict will continue.

In the end, one could safely say it was not Israeli poison that killed the 75-year-old Arafat but time and the decades-long toll of struggling for his unachieved goal of an establishing an independent Palestine in a land now inhabited by millions of Jewish Israelis. For better -- for worse -- Yasser Arafat was, as Dar al Hayat put it, "the keeper of the Palestinian dream."


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