Palestinians remember Yasser Arafat
Amid brewing political crisis:
WEST BANK: Palestinians gathered Wednesday to mark five years since
the death of their iconic leader Yasser Arafat, with president Mahmud
Abbas due to address the West Bank rally.
The anniversary of Arafat’s death finds Palestinians more divided
than ever and his successor Abbas pondering resignation because of
stalled US-led peace efforts that have failed to bring about an
independent Palestinian state.
Crowds began gathering in the West Bank’s political capital of
Ramallah, with thousands expected to attend the rally to honour the man
who catapulted the Palestinians’ struggle onto the world stage and led
them through nearly four decades of armed struggle and sputtering peace
Abbas was to address the crowd amid grim predictions by his aides
that he may resign as president, perhaps leading to the collapse of the
Palestinian Authority established by Arafat during the Oslo peace
process in the 1990s.
“The moment of truth has come and we have to be frank with the
Palestinian people that we have not been able to reach a two-state
solution through 18 years of negotiation,” chief Palestinian negotiator
Saeb Erakat told AFP.
“We have become convinced that Israel does not want a Palestinian
state on lands it occupied in 1967,” he said, referring to the Gaza
Strip and the West Bank including east Jerusalem, which Israel captured
in the Six Day War. Abbas resigning would throw the divided Palestinians
into new legal and political limbo.
According to Palestinian Basic Law, to become effective Abbas’s
resignation has to be approved by two thirds of the Palestinian
parliament. But the chamber has not convened since 2006 and it is
unclear whether it would do so if he quits.
If the resignation is approved, the speaker of parliament, Aziz Dweik
of the rival Islamist Hamas movement, would assume the presidency until
new elections are held within 60 days. But aides have indicated in
recent days that if Abbas steps down the entire Palestinian Authority
could collapse, which would spell the end of the already defunct Oslo
process and leave nearly four million Palestinians in Gaza and the West
Bank once again dependent on Israel for basic services.RAMALLAH,