Thursday, November 11, 2004

What could have been

After the ongoing 'confusion' (read: covering up vs. leaks) of the last few days, Arafat's death seems, from a news point of view, almost an anti-climax. Pretty much everything that could have been said has been said, there's already been a group catharsis. Most of the world leaders praising Arafat are doing so half-heartedly, and all seem to acknowledge that his passing opens up new opportunities for peace. (The only head of state so far with real courage, incidentally, has been Australia's John Howard -- proving Melanie Phillips' point). In addition, what is really noticeable is the near-silence of the Arab street. It is simply clear that in the past few years, Arafat faded into irrelevancy on all fronts.
It didn't have to be this way: he could have been eulagised almost unanimously as a great statesman, who lead his people to the statehood they so badly desired. Ultimately, however, he overplayed his hand and was undone by his own weaknesses and his own mythology. As the rest of the world seems to be pushing Israel and the Palestinians to step back 4 years and pick up where they left off, I hope they -- and the Palestinians -- keep this lesson very much in mind.

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