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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Can Yasser Arafat reform the Palestinian Authority?
Yasser Arafat
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has called for new elections and a reform of the Palestinian Authority.

He said that he was the one to blame for any errors of the Authority and admitted that a re-evaluation of its policies was needed.

But change will not come round soon - Yasser Arafat said he needed time to prepare reforms and new elections.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said there would be no peace talks with the Palestinians without fundamental reform of the Palestinian Authority.

Can Yasser Arafat reform the Palestinian Authority? Does he have the enough influence to press ahead with the modernisation?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

There is no question that reform needs to take place. I am not sure whether there is a country in the world complacent enough not to admit reform is in need. But one must ask for whom and why this reform will be undertaken. Any demands made by Israel upon the Palestinian government are clearly not designed to build a strong Palestinian state capable of meeting the economic, social and security needs of its people. That would require it to build a military (not an internal police force like it has now)and to retake control of the West Bank's water supply for industry and household needs, which the Israeli government is using for its settlement population. I doubt whether Sharon and the hawkish Likud party believe the Palestinians are entitled to such benefits of a nation-state.
Kyle, Canada

All Israeli should be thankful to understanding of Yasser Arafat who is looking for realistic, fair and applicable peace. He is generous in his peace proposal. Yasser Arafat is a civil engineer and is looking for applicable solution in peace. His approach, goals are different than those of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Hamish doesn't want to demolish Israel. But he is generous and recognizes this state and will never want to see it vanish. Sharon and Netanyahu should understand this.
Mahaan Muchuli , Switzerland

With influence that Yasser Arafat has he is able to do it

Alimaghouli, USA
Yes, with influence that Yasser Arafat has he is able to do it. Yes he wants reform. He has dedicated himself to his nation, peace and humanity. There is no reason for him to lie. If he has not made his agenda yet, he will make it since he loves peace and does his utmost to bring it. Many people don't inquire into where PA findings go because they know that Israel is an occupier so they don't care wherever this funding goes. PLO never wanted to sweep Israelis from their country and regain the whole of Palestine. PLO is generous to them - they will let the Israeli stay and want to end the recent occupation in West Bank and Gaza.
Alimaghouli, USA

One must not forget that Arafat is the democratically elected ruler of the Palestinian people, in fact he is the only democratically elected leader in the whole of the Middle East! Yet despite this the western world is convinced that he and his party need "reform┐and modernisation" (buzz words frequently bashed over the Middle East). There is no question regarding Arafat's great popularity and power over his people. However, Sharon et al will make us believe that this frail old man must leave to make way for an individual who can control and represent the people blah blah blah┐.Let me guess - someone like Hamid Karzai? This renewed cry by Sharon conveniently takes the spot light away from Likud's decision to oppose the basis of any peace in the region, the creation of a Palestinian state.
Kay Sadler, England

No, I don't believe that Arafat has any more control over the actions of individual fanatics than Ali Baba would have over the 40 thieves. Furthermore, I think it is up to Israel to take the initiative for peace.
Peter Bolton, UK/US

By the way, Israel should stop expanding the settlements while Arafat is working on the reforms. There should be no free cake for Israeli right wingers to exploit the situation and grip more land for themselves while the US twists Arafat's arm to do reforms.
Bashir, USA

I would love to see reform of the Palestinian Authority, and new elections in particular - it being seven years since the last. Unfortunately because of Israel's stance toward the Palestinians if elections were held today Hamas and Islamic Jihad would romp home to victory. And then where would the peace process be? Well done Israel - you keep complaining about Arafat as you make a rod for your own back. How depressing.
Chris, Cornwall

Modernisation can take many forms which cannot as yet be envisaged

Corinne, Malta
Mr Arafat or anyone in the Palestinian Authority can do it, only if they knew where they are heading to. A constitutional set-up only follows a factual rendering of political terms of reference. The main issues are, as I see them, statehood or any other form of trusteeship within the existing territory or perhaps, outside such territory. Modernisation can take many forms which cannot as yet be envisaged in a reciprocal cycle of violent behaviour.
Corinne, Malta

There seems to be a growing number of radical Palestinian organisations that do not succumb to Arafat's influence. That is why the recent bombing campaign was allowed to continue in the first place. And that is what lead to the Israeli invasion of Palestinian territory. Arafat and Sharon are not the men to secure a permanent peace arrangement within the Middle East. What is needed now is for two politicians, one from each side, who both genuinely want peace and are aware of each others feelings, to get together and negotiate a first step.
PhilT, Cornishman in Oman

Sure, Arafat can reform the PA. The question is whether or not he will and if so how. Consider the facts; Arafat has ruled that organization autocratically since its inception in 1964. Why would he just all of a sudden opt for democracy now? Also, Arafat's track record is not exactly sterling when it comes to the truth and honesty department. Why should the world believe him, or for that matter his own people? If you believe that a dictator like Arafat is just going to allow real democracy in his realm then I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.
Nathaniel, USA

Yasser Arafat can not reform the Palestinian Authority because it is his baby now grown up and gone out of his control. Despite his best intentions and efforts, a sizable chunk of his people went astray, out of order and bewildered. Yasser is clinging to his post simply on account of international recognition mostly by third world countries and the EU. Otherwise he has lost the edge or influence once he enjoyed as the only leader of Palestinians. Like all human beings he also made some costly mistakes and now, in my opinion, he is too weak to push ahead any form of modernization within his authority (which has no substitute for him at this moment).
Prem Kachhap, Canada

The question is - will Sharon accept a reformed Palestinian Authority or will it not meet his expectations?

Elias N. Nader, USA
The question is - will Sharon accept a reformed Palestinian Authority or will it not meet his "self-imposed" expectations? How many times has Sharon asked for some stand or crack-down by Arafat and when Arafat does it, Sharon says it's not enough! Is this another ploy by Sharon to delay any possibility for peace in the region before he himself is replaced and then the PA have that extremist Netanyahu to contend with? Unacceptable!
Elias N. Nader, USA

Why are we even asking the question? Arafat has always claimed that the terrorism comes from independent groups, not from the Palestinian Authority, so what does it matter how he reforms the PA if he does not rein in these allegedly independent groups. I suspect that we'll just declare that he had "reformed" the PA, and then the EU will go on cynically and covertly financing anti-Israel terrorism.
Jon Livesey, USA

Reform is needed but a free and democratic society amongst Palestinians is not what Israel or USA wants. They want someone to serve their interests not the Palestinians people's. It's all a big show!
Marwan, UK

What incentives are there for Arafat to reform the PA? He has worked very hard to get where he is at. Is he going to reform the PA to please the Israelis? Sharon? The USA? Why would he want to please Sharon and the USA when he has not been getting any support from them? If anything, the two have been trying to destroy him. If President Bush and the US foreign policies give Arafat some support, he will reform the PA. When President Bush is openly showing his bias against Arafat, it makes the world wonder if his peace ideas are just for Israel's advantage. I will hope Arafat reforms the PA and show the world that Israel, specifically Sharon, is not interested in peace.
Emad Basma, USA

Arafat had 9 years to establish a viable Palestinian Authority. He didn't do it for 9 years, why will he do it now? - He still avoids, even now, steps to outlaw of the terror organizations. The only thing Arafat does is buying time.
Michael, Hong Kong, China

Sure he can reform and rebuild the PA, but I doubt it'll be more than 3 months before Sharon sends in the Apaches.
Mark Tinsley, United Kingdom

All words, no deeds

Alec, UK
The answer is a definite No. The regime is so corrupt and nepotistic it needs a total overhaul. What happened to the so-called reforms that were promised in 1998? All words, no deeds.
Alec, UK

I believe Arafat can and will reform the Palestinian Authority very soon, there's no doubt about it. But, my question to you and to the rest of the world, if he does so, is Sharon willing to make peace with him? Is Sharon willing to give the Palestinians a State? A home like every one else? Is Sharon really, like every one claims, a man of peace? i don't think so. Even if Arafat reforms the Palestinian Authority, Sharon will come up with another lame excuse like he's always done, so he doesn't give the Palestinians a home.
Mohamad Kassem A., USA

Mr. Arafat has the authority given him by those who have placed and kept him in power. The question is: are his supporters interested in an equitable peace, or is Mr. Arafat just doing his 'politician' thing?
Richard Namon, USA

Perhaps he can, if Israel will let him. Let's face it, they haven't actually helped recently by destroying the whole infrastructure. But perhaps some good can come of this, maybe the Palestinians will attempt to build a more mature Authority with the remit to govern their own state. It will be terribly disheartening to them however, if rebuilding does not result in the ability to actually govern a proper state with recognised boundaries. Only Israel (through the USA?) can make this happen.
M Hiller, Cambridge, UK

Isabel Straw, USA

Arafat should retire! He's a liability to his people! A Moslem friend of mine totally agrees with this!
John Lefebvre, Canada

The whole of the PA that needs to change from being an insurgency organization into a competent governing body

Steve, USA
It is not just Arafat who needs to reform. It is the whole of the PA that needs to change from being an insurgency (or terrorist) organization into a competent governing body. The temperament that it takes to be in opposition does not necessarily translate into that needed to run a civil government. Making sure that the trains run on time and that the trash is picked up is not a heroic undertaking, but is a necessary component to civil governance. From my reading of the situation, the current violence is not just due to Israeli occupation (although I think that that is a canard), but due to Palestinian displeasure with the PA efforts at nation building. Perhaps proper reforms can give the Palestinians a platform from which to seek peace with Israel.
Steve, USA

Reform is a matter of urgency, but I don't think Yasser Arafat's views matter anymore. His recent walkabout has proven just how much his popularity has diminished among his own people, and I am sure that in a new election he would be ousted from power. Both he and his cronies have made themselves rich off the backs of his starving people.
Baz, UK

The Palestinians need a statesman in order to get a state. Can Arafat now become one, after all these years of being anything but?
Efeit, USA

He holds most of the ministries in the Palestinian Authority, he has the support of his people, he has army of 40000, no doubt he can make reforms, but he already started the process of burying it in a committee. Reforms alone are not enough, end to terror and to organizations like Hamas and Al-Aqsa and only then there will be a chance for a peace.
Dominique Thomas, Alameda, US

Arafat needs to go if a fundamental reform to be done. His regime also needs to go and all fanatic teaching to cease.
Alexander Sabry, Egypt

Arafat is an icon, not a political leader. He is still a highly influential figure in Palestine and still able to move the Palestinians population. But it takes logical thinking, political skills, and authority to reform a government. And I'm not sure if he has what it takes to reform PA. He is probably better served as a symbolic leader of the movement and leave the running of the PA to someone more capable.
Akemi, USA

Whatever Arafat can or cannot achieve, he is only one mortal individual

Laine Dowen, UK
Whatever Arafat can or cannot achieve, he is only one mortal individual. The actions of our own elected representatives, and the International community, particularly the United Nations, require our intense scrutiny and democratic input.
Laine Dowen, UK

He must succeed .If he can't do it let him delegate it to an aid agency who can so the aid goes to the people who need it. The Palestinian people desperately need a state.
Pradip, UK

The best think Arafat can do is resign.
Robert Buschwick, UK

I can't really think of any other credible leader for the Palestinian people at present. Arafat will need to prove he can be a credible leader though and not just someone who goes glad-handing world leaders. Both Israeli and Palestinians must learn toleration and respect. Palestinian people also need self-respect. This can only come from having their own homeland and not being a refugee in the land where they have lived for centuries.
John Rodgers, England

I honestly don't think he can or will. Instead, he should resign.
Chris Potter, USA

It is inevitable that reform will take time to shape and implement and Israel will need to be patient

Mark Dowe, Scotland, UK
The choice is either between Mr Arafat or somebody to be newly elected to allow the Authority of Palestine to be reviewed and reformed. Because Mr Arafat has considerable influence and most certainly respect within his own country, I would think it far more appropriate that any reforms needing to be carried out should be done under his authority. Reform is inevitable, it has to come for Palestine to have any chance of future peace within the region. For it to be done by somebody else could prove too volatile in preventing another intifada. It is inevitable that reform will take time to shape and implement and Israel in particular will need to be patient. The US should be able to report frequently any progress being made with reform and its likely anticipated date of impact on the region.
Mark Dowe, Scotland, UK

Unless the US and the world at large can oblige Israel to accept the creation of a Palestinian state (and a fair resolution to the right of return question) conditional on a reform of the Palestinian Authority and on security for Israel, he has no chance. Why would the Palestinian people agree to any reform, or to stopping their violent responses to occupation if there is no hope at the end of the tunnel?
Leila, UK

Arafat is simply not made of the right stuff

Yerushalmi, Israel
In order to be constructive and create, you need a leader like Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore or David Ben-Gurion. Arafat is simply not made of the right stuff. As long as certain Palestinians continue to invest in arms and explosives and educate their children to become "martyrs", they will never get anywhere.
Yerushalmi, Israel

I think he can, but can do so only with the support of Israel. Sharon must clearly declare that he supports a viable and independent Palestinian State alongside Israel and stop the ruthless massacre of Palestinians. Only when Sharon can do so will Arafat be able to reform and prevent attacks on Israel.
M Nasralla, USA

I wonder why more people don't inquire into where the PA funding goes

Elissa B., USA
I don't he intending to resign? That is probably the most positive step he can take. I wonder why more people don't inquire into where the PA funding goes - as far as I can see, his "constituents" (I put that word in quotes since he was elected without challenge almost a decade ago) live in refugee camps, but his wife lives in a luxurious home in Paris.
Elissa B., USA

He can, but he will not. Arafat has always but two faces on, one for the west and one for the Arabs. I don't see any difference now.
Patrick, US

PA Reform is their own problem. Sharon must reform his own party. He has to exile Netanyahu (the most dangerous right winger)
John Joseph, USA

Whether he is committed to reform Palestinian authority or not is not the main issue. Is Arafat so influential to implement his plans? It does not seem so. And moreover, the damage done by Israel in recent months have left the authority without any option than to overhaul it. But the radicals are gaining strength and Israel by its ruthless activities is provoking them. Any efforts towards peace must accompany overhauling of Palestinian authority and implementation of confidence building measures among the Israelis and Palestinians and restraint of power by Israelis. How successful he would be depends on how supportive Israel and US will remain in the future.
Jishnu Subedi, Nepal

Andrew Cover, UK

I think the real questions are: does he want to? Does he have an agenda? Will he see it through?

Paul M, USA
I think the real questions are: does he want to? Does he have an agenda? Will he see it through? Does it have support from the rest of the Arab World? Will it be used as camouflage for terrorism? When I answer all these questions I think - who are we kidding? Here is somebody who has always said right turn and made a left turn. Even his own supporters are looking for the agenda which should have accompanied this statement. I keep thinking of the American equivalent "NO NEW Taxes" It sounded great we voted for it but there was no follow up. In the case of Arafat we do not expect a follow up just an announcement.
Paul M, USA

Mr Arafat can reform the Palestinian Authority but what will it gain him if he cannot reign in the militants currently operating out of the Palestinian territory. Democracy is a fine ideal, but assuming that he is carrying out these reforms as a gesture to appease the Israelis and in the hope that Sharon will then consider discussing Palestinian independence, he is very probably wasting his time.
Peter Grimes, Gerrards Cross, England

I don't know whether he has the charisma or not to do it. But one thing I do know is that if he doesn't reform soon he's in real trouble. Its quite interesting looking at the website of their "Palestinian Legislative Council" which hasn't passed a law since 1998.... I hate to think how many laws the UK has passed in all that time.
Mike Hudgell, England, UK

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10 May 02 | Middle East
15 May 02 | Middle East
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