There were no tears shed in the Knesset but for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Arafat’s death introduces a possible new dynamic into the stagnant Middle East peace process. He has indicated the planned withdrawal of settlements from Gaza will not be affected. Sharon expressed the hope that a new Palestinian leadership would be formed soon that would be interested in advancing relations between the two sides.
But he cautioned against expecting a quick breakthrough as he said the new leaders of the Palestinian people would have to show a determination to end attacks against Israel, That is exactly what Sharon accused Arafat of failing to do and he persuaded the Americans to go along with his policy of sidelining the late Palestinian president from the peace process. It was a view that found favour among Israelis who regarded Arafat as at best an obstacle to peace and at worst an architect of terror. But while many Israelis will find relief in his death there will also be anxiety over the instability it may bring.