WASHINGTON -- October 29 --[Please note that Rabbani is based in Amman, Jordan, which is seven hours later than Eastern Standard Time.] Mouin Rabbani is senior Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group, specializing on Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and a contributing editor of Middle East Report. He has published widely on Palestinian issues and travels to Palestine frequently. Commenting on possible scenarios in the event that Arafat is incapacitated, Rabbani said today: "The Palestinians' pre-eminent challenge will be to prevent the national movement's geographic and organizational fragmentation, reconstruct it as a popular and inclusive institution with a clear strategy and political program that enjoys the allegiance of the main political forces and the majority of Palestinians, and be able to implement it on the ground -- no small task. The idea that Arafat is going to be replaced by a leader willing and able to accept what Arafat rejected is a pipe dream. To the contrary, it may well be the case that Arafat takes the two-state settlement -- what is left of it -- with him to the grave."
Glen Robinson is associate professor in the Department of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. Robinson is the author of Building a Palestinian State: The Incomplete Revolution (Indiana University Press, 1997) and various articles on Arafat. Commenting on possible scenarios after Arafat, Robinson said today: "In the short run, the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, as much depends on how various actors, including Israel, respond to Arafat's death. The transition could be bloody or it could be entirely peaceful. In the longer run, the basics of Palestinian politics are not likely to change much since the structures for 'soft authoritarian' rule in Palestine are well entrenched. However, Arafat's death would call the bluff of Israel and the US -- they will have lost the ostensible justification for not enforcing the 'road map.' Since Sharon has indicated that he does not want to follow the 'road map' in any case, some light might emerge between Washington and Tel Aviv's positions following Arafat's departure."