TERRY KEENAN, GUEST HOST: The Palestinian community somber today as its ailing president, Yasser Arafat (search), shows no signs of improvement. Would the death of Arafat mark an auspicious new beginning for the Middle East? (search)
Well, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner says yes but Dr. Michael Youssef, founder of the International Radio Ministry, Leading the Way, says no, and he met with President Arafat back in September at his Ramallah compound.
And gentlemen, welcome to you both.
Before we debate the future here, Doctor Youssef, let me ask you what you're hearing about Mr. Arafat's condition from Paris. We heard earlier from our Amy Kellogg that the president was on life support.
DR. MICHAEL YOUSSEF, FOUNDER OF WWW.LEADINGTHEWAY.ORG: I think that is true. He's in his last days and maybe just giving them an opportunity to figure out who, what, where, because I really think it's going to be some chaos in the days ahead after his death.
He's like the father figure to the nation and, you know, to them, they are losing their father figure. So it's going to be some emotions and some confusion, and I'm confident that somebody will emerge who will be able to forge a peace with Israel.
KEENAN: So you actually do believe perhaps that they're keeping him on life support until a burial place can be worked out?
YOUSSEF: I think not just a burial place but I think just all the different factions have to come together, at least superficially, for an outsider unity in order to be able to forge ahead for the future, because I mean, the future is at stake here.
KEENAN: Yes, and Congressman, that brings me to you. Would the world be a better place without this man?
REP. MICHAEL WEINER, D-N.Y.: Well, it can't get much worse from the perspective of the Palestinians or the Israelis. If it's true that he's a father figure, then he has been a terrible father to the Palestinians.
It's hard to argue that in the 40-some odd years he's been in power that they can point to very much in terms of gains there. The Palestinian people are in dreadful shape, in thanks largely to the absence of leadership from Arafat.
And it's worth noting that we're only in this position where there may be chaos after Arafat's passing because Arafat did nothing to empower anyone to rise within his organization or anywhere else to take the reins when he moves on.
But now you have Hezbollah taking up residence in the Palestinian areas, Hamas is, of course, there. So I don't see how it can be much worse.
KEENAN: Yes, and Dr. Youssef, it's been a good reign for Mr. Arafat. He's lined his pockets. Perhaps in death we'll find out how much he was worth, but we know it's a considerable amount.
Doesn't the congressman make a good point here, that the Palestinians are not really in any better shape than when he took over?
YOUSSEF: Oh, I couldn't agree more. The Palestinians have been in terrible shape, economically and that's the very first thing I said to the president.
But let me tell you, I'm a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm not a politician, and I'm not trying to take sides. I came to Israel, and I met with the chief rabbi before I met with Yasser Arafat. And my very goal is to proclaim the gospel of peace.
And I called upon President Arafat to call upon the God of peace so that the prince of peace, Jesus Christ, can reign in Palestinian territory.
KEENAN: All right. All right. You know, Congressman, we have Bush being re-elected, perhaps some changes in the administration, if the secretary of state leaves, perhaps. Do you think that will also change the dynamic in the Middle East?
WEINER: Well, I'm hopeful that the president sees this as an opportunity to stop any more U.S. taxpayer aid going to the Palestinians. It's just winding up in Arafat's pocket. Until we know who's in charge, we shouldn't provide any more.
We have to end this love affair with the Saudis, because they're funding terrorism, and now the Iranians are, as well.
I think that, frankly, the president should follow the instincts that he demonstrated in the first term to say we have to let the Israelis solve these problems, and if that means cracking down or pulling out, we have to let them do it.
KEENAN: He's been a friend to Israel. You would like to see that continue?
WEINER: He has been a friend to Israel. He's made some fundamental mistakes. I don't believe we should be providing any more financial aid to the Palestinians.
The president's love affair with the Saudis is simply bad policy from U.S. and an Israeli perspective. But I think overall his understanding of the challenge that Israelis face will serve him well in a post-Powell era, if there is one.
KEENAN: All right.
YOUSSEF: The president has been the best friend that Israel has ever had. And for that I commend him. And we believe in the safety of the state of Israel.
KEENAN: OK. Well, we're going to leave it there. Thanks to you both for your insights on this, Congressman Anthony Weiner and Dr. Michael Youssef.
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