This morning Matt informs us that Yasser Arafat is both dead and not-dead, which means of course that he's undead: either a wraith or a ghoul, in my opinion.

Jessica wonders who's taking over after someone stakes a stick (or vice versa) through his black heart, but the thing to understand about thugocracies is that there isn't a "position" of President to be filled once its current occupant dies. Arafat is the President of the PLO, and the office doesn't exist apart from him. The Palestinians (and most corrupt third world societies) don't have self-existent governmental institutions -- they're held together by warlords and chiefs of various strengths. When Arafat shuffles off this mortal coil there will certainly be a power vacuum, and the next leader may call himself the "President", but he'll rule in his own right, by his own power, not based on any respected or honorable office.

Israel's wall around the West Bank is nearly complete, and just in time. Most experts (which I am not) think the West Bank will devolve into full-on civil war as the various factions duke it out for control. That could have been a huge problem for Israel, but now they can just shut the gates and toss a few thousand AK-47s over the wall. It'll be a bloodbath, and Jordan may eventually step in and exert some control. Then the Jordanians -- who are rather reasonable as far as Arabs go -- would then have some responsibility for the situation, and they can actually be dealt with.

The Gaza Strip is a different matter, but it's not likely to be as violent, by my understanding. There's no wall there, but there was also no Arafat for over three years. If things get tough it's possible that Egypt will occupy the Strip and enforce order, and we have a decent amount of leverage with them because we've been bribing them for decades.

An ideal situation would see Jordan permanently annex the West Bank and Egypt do the same with the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians could finally assimilate with their Arab neighbors, and Israel wouldn't have to worry about a sovereign Palestinian state that would serve as a base for terrorists. Worst-case: the whole region goes up in flames. But that's hardly new.



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