Either way, Arafat is likely not to survive longer than a few months, quite possibly less. The death or removal of Arafat will create a vacuum in power in the Middle East as his newly appointed Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei is now threatening to quit as Mahmoud Abbas did a few weeks ago. Former Middle East Envoy Dennis Ross is predicting some kind of coalescence around a new leader – but who or what that leadership will be is unknown.
The death of Arafat would possibly lead to chaos in the short term, but in the long term Arafat is the single biggest obstacle to peace in the region. Arafat has nothing to gain from a negotiated settlement and everything to gain from continuing the bloody intifada against Israel.
If someone moderate like Mahmoud Abbas can take the reins in the aftermath of Arafat’s death, there is a chance that a negotiated settlement can happen and the road map can proceed from where it ended. In the end, the natural death of Yassir Arafat is probably the best thing for the region – it gets Arafat off the stage and unable to continue his obstructionist policy without creating even more emnity between Israel and the Palestinians. In the end, peace is not possible so long as Arafat is alive and in charge – once he is gone, there is a chance, even if small, that there can be a legitimate and lasting shot at peace.