Press probes Arafat legacy, Blair trip

Palestinian papers mark the 40th day since the death of Yasser Arafat with praise for his vision of the Palestinians' future, and sadness at the "vacuum" his death has left.
Commentators also look at the impending visit by Tony Blair to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
There is little optimism about his trip, with one pan-Arab paper believing Mr Blair is trying to exploit a perceived weakness in the Palestinian leadership since Mr Arafat's death.

(21 December 2004) BBC -- Today is the 40th day since Arafat's departure. We learned from him dedication and loyalty to past martyrs. These 40 days were enough to permit us to discover the vacuum he has left in his lovers' hearts.
Hafith al-Barghuthi in Palestinian Al-Hayat al-Jadidah

Forty days have passed since the departure of the leader and symbol Yasser Arafat, whose memory will remain eternal in the Palestinian people's mind... His far-reaching insight into the future will prove to be right, and Palestinian children will one day raise the Palestinian flag on the mosques and churches in Jerusalem.
Palestinian Al-Quds

It is no surprise that the US administration, its allies in the world and the Israeli government claim that the eternal president Arafat was the main obstacle in the way of achieving peace in the region... We should not expect anything different from those who do not want real peace, because they are only interested in a formal peace, and that constitutes a real Palestinian surrender... Arafat rejected this up until the last minute of his life... Any new Palestinian leader, no matter how moderate he is, will still adhere to the real, fixed position and will not accept what Sharon wants.
Hatem Abu Shaban in Palestinian Al-Quds

Tony Blair - the first smiling British prime minister for a century - is Bush's closest ally in the ideological, security, economic and media campaign against 'international terrorism'. It seems that Mr Blair, who is visiting Palestine and Israel, is the closest foreigner to Bush's ear, even closer than the outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell... British politics seems to be slow in changing slowly.
Adli Sadiq in Palestinian Al-Ayyam

The question that should be asked of Tony Blair's short visit to Ramallah is: will he focus on reform of the Palestinian Authority, or on ending the occupation, or the two together? The available information indicates that he will be interested in the Authority's reform because the Israeli veto - which is supported by the US - destroys any international efforts to end the occupation.
Hani al-Masri in Palestinian Al-Ayyam

Blair is today visiting the Jewish state with the aim of pushing the peace process forward, and restoring Palestinian-Israeli talks. Most probably, following Arafat's death, Blair sees the Palestinian leaders as being weak, hence rendering them easily manipulated by foreign pressure - from the US and UK - so that an agreement can be reached in the shortest possible time.
London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi

No one has the right to interfere in the affairs of the Palestinian struggle... Similarly, no one has the right to assume a position of advising the Palestinians, because every one of them has attained the age of maturity, especially those engaged in fierce fighting, day-in and day-out.
Adli Birsum in Egypt's Al-Jumhuriyah

The crucial moment which our nations are passing through after the occupation of Iraq on the one hand, and the demise of Yasser Arafat on the other, calls for a reminder of some realities - the most important being the relinquishing of some of their rights... Whether they give up their rights or not, such a move will not alter Israel's position or change the unbending position adopted by the international community towards resolving the Palestinian cause.
Saudi Al-Watan

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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