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Abbas Appears To Abandon Policy of Armed Resistance

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, an advocate of popular resistance told Al-Arabiya journalist Mayson Azzam in an interview that “I do not embrace armed resistance now and I may change my mind.”

Nihad Abu Ghosh, a Palestinian analyst from Ramallah, told The Media Line that, even though the remarks sound as if Abbas is abandoning his longstanding policy of “popular resistance,” in reality there won’t be any change.

“This verbal shift does not carry much weight because his political position is weak, and the PA is weak,” he said.

“President Abbas not once in his life did he adopt armed resistance, nor did he support it, but the armed resistance on the ground imposes itself on everyone, and it is a natural reaction to the occupation’s incursions into Nablus and Jenin,” added Abu Ghosh, referring to Israeli security forces operations in West Bank Palestinian cities.

I think it is shift in rhetoric, but it falls short of being a commitment to a policy change

Professor Hillel Frisch, an expert on the Arab world at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security think tank, told The Media Line that the statement constitutes a major shift in the PA president’s policy.

“I don’t think he’s ever said that; I think it is shift in rhetoric, but it falls short of being a commitment to a policy change,” he said.

Abbas indicated that he might move to cancel the Palestinian Authority’s security agreement with Israel “if it continues to disregard humanitarian and political matters.” However, he was quick to say that “the agreements with Israel are still in place, and we cannot back down or abandon our agreements.”

Frisch says that Abbas made similar threats in the past, yet he has never followed through on them.

“He has obligated himself to dissolving the PA and ending the security coordination before, so – given his age – it’s very hard to believe that he can radically change,” he said.

Abbas said that the increase in attacks by Palestinians on Israeli soldiers and civilians are the result of the “oppression” felt by the Palestinian people.

“His diagnosis has a lot of validity. These attacks are the result of accumulating feelings of discontent, anger and oppression, and what is happening in terms of targeting the Palestinians and their sanctities will lead to an explosion of situations,” Abu Ghosh said.

On Thursday, Israeli forces killed three Palestinians after coming under fire during their latest deadly raid on the flashpoint city of Jenin, as violence continues to rise in the West Bank.

The West Bank is witnessing a sharp increase in bloodshed this year, the most since 2016, with at least 150 Palestinians and 26 Israelis killed across Israel and the West Bank.

“Daily killings of Palestinians and the continued incursions into Palestinian areas by Israeli occupation forces are the reason for the heightened state of tension and violence,” according to Abu Ghosh.

Frisch points out that Abbas is the head of Fatah movement which has in some cases claimed that the attackers are members of Fatah, the largest Palestinian faction, and – from the Israeli perspective – that makes him “involved in armed conflict.”

He also says that the Palestinian Authority “provides considerable social welfare and financial stipends” to Palestinian prisoners and their families, approved by Abbas, which “encourages more attacks.”

The 87-year-old PA president told the Saudi-sponsored, UAE-based news channel that the Palestinians “used to fight the occupation with weapons, and now we are fighting it with peaceful popular resistance that has results that the Israelis are feeling … I warn against letting the Palestinian people lose their patience.”

Abbas, who has been weakened by his strategic choices, continues to be criticized for increasing his grip on power.

He has been facing increasing vocal criticism from within the movement that he leads to make changes.

He made a bold statement during the interview indicating that he might be targeted for assassination.

“I am exposed to being killed at any moment, and I am not far from getting killed by Israel or others, and the story is not personal,” he said.

Abbas stressed that he would not think of or turn to dissolving the PA.

“We built the Authority with our effort, labor and martyrs, and we will not dissolve the Authority, and it will remain, and the Palestinian state will exist, and no one can” shut it down, he said.

Frisch says that Abbas “presides over a pretty proficient and functioning authority by Third World standards.”

Daily killings of Palestinians and the continued incursions into Palestinian areas by Israeli occupation forces are the reason for the heightened state of tension and violence

“Of course, the PA is limited by Israeli incursions and security measures, but he sees value to keeping the Palestinian Authority. He doesn’t see any prospect for any kind of peace process, and he’s very eager to insure keeping his own power, not least because he’s probably very fearful of what would happen to Palestinian society in the absence of the PA,” Frisch said.

“The alternative could be much worse,” Frisch concluded.

Abbas also accused the United States of placing “a stumbling block in the way of implementing United Nations resolutions, especially Security Council resolutions, which are the only and basic support for Israel.”

He did not rule out meeting or dealing with Israeli Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu, but “without conceding any of the Palestinian constants.”

Abbas reasserted his position on normalization, affirming his stance on Arab states establishing diplomatic ties with Israel before the Palestinians have reached a final resolution with Israel.

“I am against normalization in principle, because I am against violating the decision of the Arab summit, but what can I do more than that? I do not normalize. I exist under occupation,” he said.

Abbas is in Saudi Arabia for an Arab summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping that will include Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Tunisian President Kais Saied, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch and Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.