OPINION

Myth and reality

Yasser Arafat enjoyed the theatricality of that famous handshake with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the White House in 1993. He liked being a personality and a Nobel Peace Prize winner; he wanted to charm his foreign visitors but also to enjoy the trappings of official power in his presumedly corrupt Gaza headquarters. For 30 years, he was the symbol of Palestinian resistance, a reflection of the refusal by the Palestinian people to live without a country. His loss will transform the land of Palestine into an unmanageable raft, and it will be some time before Arafat’s myth becomes a point of reference. The foreign press will write that Arafat’s tragedy was his failure to change from a rebel leader into a statesman, that his journey – from the first youthful years of resistance to his emancipation to the political leader of the Palestinian movement – was turbulent and full of intrigue. They will say that he reached the climax with the Oslo agreement but also plumbed the depths in his derelict Ramallah headquarters, ignored by the Americans, an exile-in-waiting in the eyes of the Israelis, with limited power and influence and without an audience, except for a group of Palestinian officers jostling for power… The only thing that is clear now is that those fragile hopes for the creation of a Palestinian state now seem more of a chimera than ever before…