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Abbas: Uprising was a mistake

Breaking news – Arafat’s top deputy admits uprising was a mistake.

Yasser Arafat’s top deputy said the armed uprising against Israel has been a mistake for the Palestinians and must be stopped, declaring it had held up Palestinian independence and let to a reoccupation of West Bank cities by Israeli troops.

Mahmoud Abbas is widely considered to be a potential successor to Arafat, and these comments mark a pointed departure in Palestinian Authority policy. Among Abbas’s remarks, he stated that:

“Many people diverted the uprising from its natural path and embarked on a path we can’t handle, with the use of weapons … such as mortars, grenades and shooting from houses and populated areas. [. . .] If we do a calculation of the gains and losses … we will see that without any doubt is that what we lost was big and what we gained was small. [. . .] We should … ask ourselves where we are headed, not by beating ourselves up, but by reviewing the mistakes we have made. [. . .] What happened in these two years, as we see it now, is a complete destruction of everything we built.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Abbas is further quoted as saying:

“Every Jew in Israel is now with Sharon because they believe he is defending them. I want to take this excuse from him by saying that we want our rights and we don’t want war. Then the number of Israelis who stand with us will grow.”

Pre-election posturing? Or does he really feel that way? If so, does he have enough will or clout to sway public opinion among Palestinians, or even bring about a reduction or cessation of violence? Little is known, but clearly Israel is watching this guy closely and trying to figure out what the next move should be.

Unfortunately, I doubt he will live long enough to make these statements too many more times. I’m sure he’s at the top of some Hamas hit list as we speak. Sadly, voices of moderation have been historically drowned out by extremists – and not just in the Middle East.

But his comments may serve a larger purpose, even despite the threat. They may be giving a voice to a rising sentiment among the Palestinian population.

A poll released last week showed more Palestinians expressing doubts than before about the effectiveness of the uprising. Asked if it was achieving its goals, 39 per cent said it was, while 36 per cent said it wasn’t, according to the survey by the Palestinian Centre for Public Opinion, which had a margin of error of three percentage points.

Like I said earlier, peace can only be achieved with the support of the people involved. And it looks like more Palestinians are questioning the use of violence. Optimism is so unlike me, but this does seem like a step, albeit a small one. Hope? Is it even possible?

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