According to Ha’aretz, Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat is in critical condition in his headquarters in Ramallah.
According to a bodyguard who was in the compound at the time, Arafat had been eating soup during a meeting with Qureia, Abbas and senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo between 8 P.M. and 9 P.M. when he vomited. He was brought to the clinic inside the compound, where he collapsed and was unconscious for about 10 minutes, the guard said.
Some Palestinian officials said Arafat has been unconscious virtually ever since; others said he has been slipping in and out of consciousness; and still others said he was conscious, but delirious.
Rumours state that a 3 man committee of Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), former PM Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and parliament speaker Salim al-Zaanoun has been appointed to run things until Arafat recovers.
Should he die, Rowhi Fattouh (as speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council) would take over the PA for 60 days until new elections can be held. This is under question however, as Fattouh does not command the same respect levels as the previous holder of this position, Qureia. The PLO, however, contains no such provisions, and the resulting power-vaccuum could even lead to civil war.
For the past year, the central command of the IDF has worked on a plan it calls “A New Leaf”, for a post-Arafat situation. IDF commanders would be instructed to do everything possible to reduce tension and to respect Palestinian mourning.
The question of who will take over of course also as huge implications for the currently stalled peace process.
Word on the street is that Abbas and Qureia, two of the most senior and respected government officials, would divvy up the powers between them. There are others in the picture, however, including Marwan Barghouti (currently in an Israeli prison), Mohammed Dahlan (Security Chief in the Abbas government) and Jibril Rajoub (a Qureia confidant).
Ha’aretz reports, however, that Dahlan and Rajoub would “lend their support to the two veterans, who will divide up the governing authority between themselves.”
I shed no tears for Arafat, a man who has been a terrorist, a corrupt leader and has done huge damage to the very real cause of Palestinian self-determination. I do worry, however, about the day after.
More from Ha’aretz:
– Yasser Arafat, a veteran national leader, has survived crisis after crisis
– Jordan braces for stormy demonstrations
– Analysis: Without Arafat, main justification for pullout is lost