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German Press Review: In Arafat's Wake

The health of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat sparked a plethora of comment in German editorials Friday.


Arafat symbolizes the national aspirations of many Palestinians unfortunately, the taz in Berlin remarked. He’s also essentially their lawyer and a bad one at that. Besides being internationally isolated, he's losing power at home, too. The paper observed that the Palestinian Authority has long since ceased to function, that Arafat’s Fatah organization is falling apart and that the Islamist militant group Hamas is gaining strength. The paper said that Arafat’s death will intensify the desperate situation.

The business daily Handelsblatt had harsh words for what Arafat had done for Palestinians in recent years. It criticized his refusal to find a successor by forcing out any competition. No one will be able to fill all his functions after he’s gone, it said, which will make it impossible for the Palestinian Authority to reach any kind of a compromise with Israel while it sorts itself out. Without the binding force of Arafat, the daily predicts a massive power struggle to come.

The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung looks at what Arafat’s passing could mean for the greater Middle East. Israel will suddenly lose it’s greatest enemy, a terrorist that can’t be negotiated with according to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the paper wrote. Once Arafat’s gone, Israel will have to have to readjust its anti-peace policy. Without him, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will explode into violence and the power vacuum will be filled by the Hamas, a grim prospect, the paper said.

The Financial Times Deutschland saw Arafat as not merely a player in the Middle East conflict, but a major part of the problems there. The paper asserted that he will leave behind a violent power vacuum that no one’s prepared for.

The Nürnberger Nachrichten looked back on what many regard as Arafat’s biggest mistake -- his rejection of then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s proposals on the final boundaries of a Palestinian state at Camp David in 2000. The paper called Arafat tragic and said he had missed a historic opportunity that won’t come again. But alongside its criticism of Arafat, the paper held Israel partly responsible for the current bloodshed.

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