"The Era of Arafat is Over"
"Palestinian officials close to Arafat told CNN they have reached the conclusion that the era of Arafat as Palestinian leader is over."
He may not be in full control of his "mental faculities" and has lost the ability to "communicate coherently". It seems likely that the old villain has leukemia. Top PA figures are meeting to "determine a course of action and divide responsibilities." As if you needed more proof this is a clear indication that the PA is an organization not run by laws or rules or any impersonal structure but rather an organization based purely on personalities and power. There is no mechanism to replace the "President" in the event that he dies or cannot perform his duties.
My bet is that Arafat does not die soon but lingers on for some time, alive but incapacitated by illness. The PA will enter the realm of surrogate leaders acting on his behalf much the way Saudi Arabia is run now. These surrogates will lack the standing or power to make any serious decisions about the future of the Palestinian people. The PA will be adrift. Hamas will more openly challenge its authority, especially in Gaza leading up to the March 2005 Israeli withdrawl. Indeed without Arafat the PA may split into several factions, the central authority existing only on paper and for the cameras.
A semi-living Arafat is worse for the PA and the Palestinians than a clearly dead one. And possibly worse for the Israelis too.