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An e-newsletter delivering updates and analysis on current issues about Israel and the Middle East conflict

January 4, 2005

Can Abbas overcome the Arafat legacy? It doesn't look good.

Dear Friend of FLAME:

In last week's issue of the Hotline, we expressed very guarded optimism about the ability of Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen) to break with the Yasser Arafat legacy of deception, lies, corruption and terror. Over the last few days, Abbas was in the militant hotbed of Jenin in the West Bank courting the favor of armed militants and later was in Gaza doing more of the same. His words in Arabic were in distinct contrast to what he has been mouthing in English to the Western world — an old Arafat trick.

According to the Associated Press, "Mahmoud Abbas, the leading candidate for the Palestinian presidency, campaigned Thursday in Jenin refugee camp, where he was lifted on the shoulders of gunmen and received by Zakariya Zubeidi, a leader of the local Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades and one of Israel's most wanted men." While Abbas has criticized Palestinian violence and called Intifada II a mistake, his latest pronouncements in Arabic didn't sound like those of a peacemaker. Abbas hailed terrorists as heroes deserving of protection and says he has no plans to crack down on them once he is elected. Zubeidi brashly declared that the Intifada continues unabated, and Zubeidi's brother was arrested by the Israeli army as he attempted to elude a roadblock.

Before the Palestinian people, Abbas also continues to insist on the so-called "right of return" of Palestinian refugees from Israel in 1947 and some four million of their descendents, whom the Arab world has refused to take in or support in their squalid camps. This unrealistic demand was the decisive conversation-ender between Arafat and Israeli PM Ehud Barak, and it will continue to block any meaningful peace — all of which Abbas knows full well. (For background on the absurd notion of Palestinian return, see the FLAME ad at

In addition, for the record, Abbas also insists on no compromise on the Palestinian territorial demand for a full return to 1967 borders (which would not only make Israel indefensible, but would also exclude hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in the Jerusalem suburbs). He also refuses to commit to substantive action against terrorism. Let us not forget that the steadfast goal of the armed groups whom Abbas courts in Jenin and Gaza is a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, with no Jews in between. This is nothing more than the old Arafat recipe of deception — stringing along Israel and the West with talk of moderation and democratization while simultaneously encouraging militants to continue terrorist violence with the ultimate goal of Israel's defeat.

Abbas may sing in a different key, but so far the lyrics still sound just like Arafat's greatest hit. We will do well to listen carefully (and even respectfully) to Abbas, but it is his actions we must soberly judge, not words spoken with a forked tongue.

Jim Sinkinson
Director, FLAME

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