President Yassir Arafat (aka Abu Ammar) of Palestine has died at the age of 75. He died at 3:30am Thursday in the Paris hospital where he had been placed under close supervision. Palestinian officials have yet to say what the specific cause of death was. At the time of death Arafat held three posts of primary importance: President of the Palestinian National Authority (the governmental organization of Palestine), Leader of Fatah (the insurgent group Arafat founded 39 years ago), and Chairman of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization- a party of Palestinian organizations fighting for a Palestinian state and the party that has controlled the Palestinian Authority since its inception).
The inheritor of these positions will be Mahmoud Abbas, the original Prime Minister (preceding the current Ahmed Qureia) chosen primarily by the United States and Israel and ratified by Palestine. Qureia will run the government for the next 60 days until elections can be held, but the title of President of the Palestinian Authority has been bestowed on Rauhi Fattouh (Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament). Fattouh will have very little power for the next 60 days, and, since the Palestinian Authority voted unanimously to install Abbas in the three positions, the popular vote will have only one candidate.
Abbas is a critic of the current intifada, and has fought against terrorism for some years now. It can be expected that he will crack down on armed groups, even though he was one of the founders of Fatah with Arafat. Whether he changes the course of negotiations with Israel that Arafat began remains to be seen.
Israeli leaders, at this point, seem to have only positive things to say about Arafat's death. United States President Bush expressed his feelings with vague terms, but implied anti-Arafat sentiment.
There will be a formal burial service in Cairo Friday morning to be attended by dignitaries, and a more restricted service in Ramallah later that day.
Long Live Palestine!
Long Live Abu Ammar!
Long Live the Palestinian People!