Mideast a Heartbeat From Disaster?

  • Share
  • Read Later
JERUSALEM: Yasser Arafat may be the Middle East’s consummate political survivor, but his failing health may be a new pitfall for the region’s troubled peace process. TIME Jerusalem Bureau Chief Lisa Beyer reports that Arafat collapsed, unconscious in Ramallah, Wednesday, and was briefly hospitalized. “His aides are saying it was simply a product of exhaustion,” says Beyer. “But it’s the second time in recent weeks that he has fainted.”

Beyer says diplomats who have recently seen the Palestinian leader are concerned by his obvious fragility: “If he becomes incapacitated or dies, it would be an unmitigated disaster, because there’s nothing even close to an heir apparent. The turmoil that would result from his departure could completely paralyze the peace process.”

Despite prompting by Western diplomats, “even now Arafat remains extremely loathe to designate a successor,” says Beyer. “It’s a strategy which has allowed him to be the uncontested leader of the Palestinians. It has served him well, and may even be said to have served the Palestinians well by eliminating internal power struggles. But it won’t serve anybody well after his departure.”