At the time of Yasser Arafat's death one year ago, diplomats and pundits spoke of the beginning of a 'new era' for Palestinians and the Middle East as a whole. With the man viewed by Israel and the US as an obstacle to peace removed from the equation, Israel and the Palestinians could finally get back to negotiating a compromise that would give Israel security while ending occupation for Palestinians - or so the reasoning went. But as Palestinians today mark the first anniversary of the former president's death, any changes in their situation have been for the worse. With Israel appearing intent on a unilateral drawing of its borders that includes parts of the occupied West Bank, hope of a negotiated solution is evaporating. And with Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, unable to elicit international pressure to halt Israeli settlement construction there, so is the dream of a viable Palestinian state. 'Despair and listlessness prevail on the Palestinian street,' wrote Hafez Barghouthi, editor of the Palestinian Authority's al-Hayat al Jadida newspaper, summing up the pre-anniversary mood. But not all of the gloom has to do with Israeli policies. As Barghouthi noted, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are living in fear of inter-Palestinian violence that has worsened in Arafat's absence. If Arafat was seen as too strong and domineering, Mr Abbas is increasingly viewed among his own people as too hesitant to reclaim internal security from militias, including that of his own Fatah movement. In many Palestinian locales, the primacy of gangs is vying with hard-hitting Israeli policies as the biggest public concern. More Palestinians died at the hands of other Palestinians than were killed by Israeli troops during the first nine months of 2005, according to official Palestinian statistics. In Gaza City, al-Azhar University has been shut since armed gunmen broke up a trustees' meeting, four weeks ago. University officials blame the Palestinian Authority for the continued suspension of studies, saying it has not punished the assailants. Such a protracted closure would have been unlikely during the Arafat era, in the view of Hani Masri, a Palestinian analyst. 'If Arafat wanted to intervene, he could make contact with all the armed men, person by person,' he said. 'While his ability to intervene lessened in his last years, he could still intervene. Abbas is not able to intervene, he has not built his power sufficiently, he has no team believing in him. He is weak compared to Arafat, and this impacts on the Palestinians, who need a strong leader who does not fear and is not hesitant,' Mr Masri said. Arafat himself fostered the internal chaos by encouraging a proliferation of militias as part of his divide-and-rule policies. But the loyalty he commanded, his years of experience as power broker and the fact that he was feared, enabled him to apply brakes, analysts say. That Mr Abbas is 'a man of peace' in US President George W. Bush's estimation, is scant comfort to Palestinians. Israel, which shunned talks with Arafat because of his alleged ties to terrorism, is also refusing to negotiate with Mr Abbas, who it acknowledges has no links to attacks on Israeli targets. After a suicide bombing killed five Israelis last month in a further blow to the ceasefire orchestrated by Mr Abbas, Israel announced the Palestinian leader would have to act against 'terrorist infrastructure' before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon meets with him. The Israeli defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, went further, saying Israel would have to 'wait for the next generation' of Palestinian leaders to make peace. Hopes that Mr Abbas' taking Arafat's place would boost the depressed Palestinian economy have gone unrealised, with Israel saying continued curbs on the movement of people and goods are necessary to prevent Palestinian attacks. If one thing has been proved since Arafat's death, it is that he was not the real obstacle to peace, Palestinian leaders say. 'During the time of Arafat, the Israelis said they could have no contact with him because he engaged in terror,' said Jamal Shobaki, a former Palestinian Authority minister. 'Now they say Abbas isn't a partner because he is weak. The fact is that Israel does not want a partner.' Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev disputed this, saying Israel had already made a historic move in August with its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, when it dismantled the 21 settlements in the Strip and four more in the northern West Bank. Now, he said, it was the Palestinians' turn to be decisive, by acting against the armed groups. Israel, he said, was not out to undermine Mr Abbas. 'We want to negotiate and we see Abu Mazen as a partner for reconciliation,' Mr Regev said, using Mr Abbas' nickname. 'Abu Mazen is not like Arafat, he does not lie. When he says he is against terrorism, he really is against terrorism. Arafat would go on CNN and condemn terrorism and then give money to suicide bombers. Abu Mazen says what he means, but he does not follow through.' Other Israeli voices suggest Israel will try to permanently sideline Mr Abbas. Eyal Arad, a close adviser of Mr Sharon, said recently that instead of negotiating with the Palestinian Authority, Israel might carry out another unilateral withdrawal, this time in the West Bank, and determine its borders independently. In fact, it is already setting these borders through settlement expansion, the building of the separation barrier inside occupied territory, and the establishment of checkpoints and terminals that carve Palestinian areas of the West Bank into three disjointed enclaves. This, and the security chaos, could erase what was arguably Arafat's main achievement for Palestinians: keeping the cause of statehood alive.