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by Dr. Aaron Lerner


"At this present juncture, I am opposed to the armed struggle because we can't succeed in it, but maybe in the future things will be different." Mahmoud Abbas in an interview with the Jordanian daily al-Dustur (as reported today in The Jerusalem Post)

Yasser Arafat wrote in his September 9, 1993 letter to Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel.

"The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process, and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations. ... the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance prevent violations and discipline violators."

And it wasn't easy to get Arafat, acting as the representative of the Palestinian people, to sign off on those phrases.

Words that forfeited any possible legal claim to the right to continue employing terrorism and other acts of violence in what he and his supporters called a "liberation struggle".

Take a look at the phrase: Arafat didn't just renounce the use of "terrorism" – a word that the Arabs claim cannot ever be applied to their murderous activity – he also renounced the use of "other acts of violence".

Arafat didn't want to sign off on the phrases, but Yitzhak Rabin made it clear that this was his red line.

So there was Yasser Arafat in the summer of 1993: Arafat, essentially an aging has-been exiled to Tunis from Beirut, watching as each month Israeli security forces continued to whittle down their dwindling "wanted list" of terrorists.


Contrary to what has become the story line in some quarters, it wasn't the "children of the stones" that raised Arafat from the dung heap of history; it was a group of Israeli ideologues seeking a way to facilitate an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Oslo was Arafat's lifeline. Israel could take it or leave it. So Arafat blinked first.

It wasn't a minor matter then. And it shouldn't be a minor matter today.

Let's be clear about this: when the entire Palestinian leadership – from White House Lawn "man of peace" Mahmoud Abbas explains that the Palestinian decision not to engage in violence is based on its current efficacy they are trashing this fundamental Palestinian commitment.

That's not to say that Arafat's letter and the agreements that followed it stripped the Palestinians of the ability to struggle for their interests. It just limited them to pursuing them via non-violent means – both on the domestic and the international front. Arafat's September 9, 1993 letter to Yitzhak Rabin committing to "a peaceful resolution of the conflict. . . resolved through negotiations" and assuming "responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators" was supposed to be a watershed event.

But it wasn't.

Because from day one that commitment has been ignored and forgotten.

The latest stunning remark by Mahmoud Abbas was indeed covered by all the Israeli news media. But it appears that the story – which has tremendous policy ramifications – is already pretty much forgotten.

Secretary of State Rice will be coming next week to push Israel to make various concessions to "moderate" Abbas.

Concessions that could very well bring the Palestinians closer to the day that "armed struggle" would succeed.

And as "moderate" Abbas explains – his opposition to armed struggle is neither moral nor legal, but instead simply a question of efficacy.

This is not rhetoric. This is strategy.

And the sooner that Israel's leadership recognizes this, the better the Jewish State's ability to pursue policies that reflect this reality.

Summary of Abbas' al-Dustur interview by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Cook of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that he doesn't rule out armed conflict against Israel. He also said that he was "honored" to have fired the first bullet of the Fatah terror organization in 1965, and to have taught terror tactics around the world, including to such groups as Hizbullah.

In an in-depth interview published today in the Jordanian daily Al-Dustur, Abbas said that the PA is "unable" to pursue armed conflict for now, but said that "in the future stages things may be different."

He rejected Israel as a Jewish state, and said that it was the PA's rejection of Israel's Jewishness that almost aborted the Annapolis Conference last November.

Abbas said that he won't demand that Hamas recognize Israel. In fact, as PMW has reported in the past, he said that the only "recognition" of Israel he demands of a Palestinian unity government is to recognize Israel as its adversary.

Here are some highlights from that interview:

The Arab Situation

"Now we are against armed conflict because we are unable. In the future stages, things may be different... "

We reject the Jewishness of the state

The Palestinian President emphasized his rejection of what is described as the Jewishness of the state [Israel], and said: "We rejected this proposal at the Annapolis conference last November in the USA, and the conference was almost aborted because of it..."

The Resistance [Editor's note: PA euphemism for terror]

The Palestinian President spoke about the resistance, saying: "I was honored to be the one to shoot the first bullet in 1965 [Fatah terror against Israel began in 1965] ,and having taught resistance to many in this area and around the world, defining it and when it is beneficial and when it is not... we had the honor of leading the resistance.We taught everyone what resistance is, including the Hezbollah, who were trained in our camps [i.e. PLO camps in the 60s and 70s]."

Recognition of Israel

"I don't demand that the Hamas movement recognize Israel. I only demanded of the [Palestinian] national unity government that would work opposite Israel in recognition of it. And this I told to Syrian President Bashir Assad, and he supported this idea."
From the Arabic – Al-Dustur, February 28, 2008


Dr. Aaron Lerner is Director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis); its website address is This article was posted on the IMRA website February 28, 2008. Contact IMRA at

The Palestinian Media Watch (PMW): PMW is based in Jerusalem and translates from the Arab press and T.V. Itamar Marcus is director of PMW ( Barbara Crook, is PMW's North American representative. Contact them at


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