Abbas makes contradictory statements:
No to violence, yes to war against Israel
by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in recent days has made contradictory statements concerning violence and war against Israel. To the English speaking audience Abbas said he would never turn to violence; in Arabic he said he would join Arab states in a war against Israel:
Abbas to Western audience:
"'I am committed to peace, but not forever,' Mr. Abbas said. 'I don't mean I will turn to violence - never. In my life, I will never do it. But I cannot stay in my office forever doing nothing.'"
Abbas to Arab audience:
"I have said more than once that if the Arabs want war - we are with them."
Abbas made the statement against violence in an interview with Bernard Avishai writing for the New York Times Magazine. The statement was intended for an international audience and reported in the New York Times on January 27, 2011.
Abbas made the second statement not ruling out war in a meeting with Egyptian and other Arab journalists. This statement was meant for an Arab audience and reported in the official Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on January 24, 2011.
Abbas stressed that he is against violence now because the Palestinians are unable and because the international community opposes it. He did not denounce violence as a tool:
"We do not wish to turn to armed struggle, because our [lack of] capabilities and the international atmosphere do not allow for it."
PA leaders' depicting non-violence against Israel as a necessary current strategy was exemplified recently during the 2010 peace talks. PA leaders repeatedly used apologetic language when explaining the rationale behind the non-violence to Palestinians.
Nabil Shaath, MP, member of Fatah Central Committee and former PA Foreign Minister, made a series of speeches justifying the cessation of violence, which he stressed was due to current conditions: "At the present time [the armed struggle] is not possible, or is not effective," he said. He noted "the inability to engage in the armed struggle," and pointed out that: "[it] has become undesirable now," and "international conditions do not permit us." Shaath also stressed the "right to return to the armed conflict whenever we view that as our people's interest." (Full quotes below.)
Abbas has repeated this willingness to join an all-out Arab war three times in the last year: First, to the Arab League in March, then in July, and now again:
The following are excerpts from the statements by Mahmoud Abbas (emphasis added):
Jan. 24, 2011, meeting with Egyptian and other Arab journalists:
"The President [Abbas] emphasized that in September the Palestinian leadership will pass a resolution which no-one will have dreamed of, if the available options concerning the peace process fail... President Abbas made it clear that the Arab Peace Initiative is the ideal solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict... He noted that the Palestinian Authority published the Peace Initiative in the Israeli media and on the 'streets', in order to bring it to the attention of the Israelis.
He emphasized that he supports the options that the Arab [state]s will choose, and added: 'I have said more than once that if the Arabs want war - we are with them. I cannot fight alone. We tried military action during the Second Intifada and during the attack on Gaza at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, after the [Hamas] refusal to renew the ceasefire, and it brought destruction upon us. 25% of the homes in Gaza are still in ruins.' He noted that he opposes military action and that he believes that popular operations resisting settlement and the [security] fence lead to clear positive results for the Palestinian cause. He noted that 50% of the participants in these demonstrations are Israelis, while 25% are foreigners. He added: 'We are determined to continue this activity, and we do not wish to turn to armed struggle, because our [lack of] capabilities and the international atmosphere do not allow for it."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 24, 2011]
July 6, 2010, in the home of PA Ambassador to Jordan, to writers and journalists:
"'We are unable to confront Israel militarily, and this point was discussed at the Arab League Summit in March in Sirt (Libya). There I turned to the Arab States and I said: 'If you want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favor. But the Palestinians will not fight alone because they don't have the ability to do it.' ... 'The West Bank was completely destroyed and we will not agree that it will be destroyed again,' in addition to 'the inability to confront Israel militarily.'"
[Abbas, at meeting with writers and journalists
in the home of the Palestinian Ambassador to Jordan,
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Fatah), July 6, 2010]
The following are excerpts from the statements by Palestinian MP Nabil Shaath, (emphasis added):
MP Nabil Shaath (1): "... the armed struggle, which has become undesirable now"
"MP Dr. Nabil Shaath, member of Fatah Central Committee and Commissioner of Foreign Relations... emphasized that the Fatah's stated strategy for the struggle is to adopt the growing popular and 'non-violent' struggle against Israel, because of the inability to engage in the armed struggle, which has become undesirable now, although it is the right of the Palestinian people, which all international treaties and resolutions have guaranteed... Shaath emphasized that the non-violent struggle is no less honorable than the armed struggle, and that it does not signify submission to Israeli demands."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 20, 2010]
MP Nabil Shaath (2): "the armed struggle at the present time... is not effective"
"The current distancing from the armed struggle does not mean its absolute rejection... He noted that the difficulty of the conflict required the Palestinian people to diversify its activities of struggle - along with an emphasis on the importance of the armed struggle, which laid the basis for the existence of the state and contributed to maintaining the right and presenting it to the world - especially since the armed struggle at the present time is not possible, or is not effective, because of to the difficulties with which the Palestinian people contends."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 21, 2010]
MP Nabil Shaath (3): negotiations are "tactical" and "temporary"
"Dr. Nabil Shaath, Commissioner of International Relations and member of the Fatah Central Committee... stated that the decision to renew negotiations was a tactical decision, i.e., a temporary, defensive decision... and it is dependent upon the possibility of attaining tangible results for the Palestinians. He concluded: 'Even the resistance uses defensive tactics in order not to miss opportunities.'"
[Al-Dustur (Jordan), June 10, 2010]
MP Nabil Shaath (4): Palestinians will return to violence when it is "our people's interest."
"Dr. Nabil Shaath, member of the Fatah Central Committee... emphasized that 'the Palestinian people has the right to defend itself, and it has the right to act in the way of the armed struggle. We have acted in this way for 100 years. Fatah led it (the armed struggle) for 23 years, and Hamas adopted it for 15 years. We are proud of all of our Shahids (Martyrs), and it is our right to return to the armed conflict whenever we view that as our people's interest.'"
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 7, 2010]
The following is the article in New York Times quoting Mahmoud Abbas:
Olmert Memoir Cites Near Deal for Mideast Peace
By Ethan Bronner
JERUSALEM - Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister of Israel, says in new memoirs that he and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, were very close to a peace deal two years ago, but Mr. Abbas's hesitation, Mr. Olmert's own legal troubles and the Israeli war in Gaza caused their talks to end. Shortly afterward, a right-wing Israeli government came to power...
In a separate interview, Mr. Abbas confirmed most of Mr. Olmert's account...
Mr. Avishai's article is scheduled to be published in The Times Magazine next month...
"I am committed to peace, but not forever," Mr. Abbas said. "I don't mean I will turn to violence - never. In my life, I will never do it. But I cannot stay in my office forever doing nothing."
He said Washington needed to play an active role, or "hopes for peace will collapse and the region will be controlled by extremists."
[The New York Times, Jan. 27, 2011]