Hamas will claim vindication for its anti-peace-process policy, and will use the failure of Arafat's strategy to push its own claims for leadership. The likely response? "Arafat will probably try to rally the Palestinians behind him and get them to take action in support of his demands. He may be hoping that a couple of flare-ups will bring the fire brigade from Washington," says Hamad. "But the fire brigade may be out of water."
Unwilling to risk the domestic political fallout from putting the squeeze on Israel, the White House has washed its hands of the failed Mideast peace process. With the erstwhile guarantor of the Oslo process now telling Israelis and Palestinians to resolve their own problems, the big winner may be the Islamic militants of Hamas. "Arafat's strategy relied on the Americans' pressuring Israel to make concessions," says TIME West Bank correspondent Jamil Hamad. "Their failure to do this leaves Arafat's ability to lead the Palestinians badly weakened."