Death of Yasser Arafat
Hon Phil Goff Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
11 November 2004
Death of Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat was respected by Palestinians as a leader who symbolised their long search for statehood and independence, although he was regarded by many in the West as deeply flawed, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.
Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat Died November 11 2004.
Arafat, Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, died earlier today aged 75.
Mr Goff met Mr Arafat at the United Nations in 2001 and at his compound in Ramallah on the West Bank during a visit to the Middle East in May 2003.
“Yasser Arafat was much criticized for inadequacies in his leadership of the Palestinian Authority, but he retained iconic status among Palestinian people because of his long identification as leader of their struggle for their own state and self-determination,” Mr Goff said.
"There was much both to respect and criticise in Yasser Arafat. His achievement was to win acknowledgement for the existence of the Palestinian nation and to advocate for the rights of a dispossessed and disadvantaged people.
"His failure was to not make the transformation from resistance leader to statesman. Under his leadership the Palestinian Authority was marked by incompetence, corruption and a lack of constitutional and democratic procedure.
"In the end, Yasser Arafat lacked the authority or will to finalise a peace settlement, a failure he shares with the Israeli government.
"His death is a critical time for the Palestinian people, who must now address the question of his successor. Arafat deliberately made no provision for his successor, and the gap left by his death creates a risk of instability and conflict.
"There are able and moderate people within the Palestinian Authority such as Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qurie, but their ability to win a strong public mandate and exercise real authority is less clear.
"The opportunity exists for the emergence of someone who can reform the Authority and advance negotiations towards a peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict.
"The international community must hope and work for this to occur so that a viable, independent Palestinian state can co-exist in peace alongside Israel," Mr Goff said.