Israel skuffet over Abbas
Agence France Presse
21 December 2004
JERUSALEM Dec 21– Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Tuesday he was “discouraged” by new PLO chief Mahmud Abbas, accusing him of being reluctant to confront armed groups and wanting to preserve Yasser Arafat’s legacy.
Abbas, favourite to be elected Palestinian Authority president on January 9, has been the leading critic of the militarisation of the Palestinian uprising and recently called on armed factions to lay down their weapons.
However Shalom told the Jerusalem Post that Abbas did not appear to be prepared for a confrontation with militant groups such as Hamas.
“We want them to have their elections. But the day after, on January 10, we would like to see them take the strategic decision to fight terrorism.
“But unfortunately Abu Mazen (Abbas) made a statement a few days ago that he will not do it by force, that ‘We will have to talk to our people and our brothers,’ and convince them not to carry out their attacks.”
While being careful not to be seen to be endorsing Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has made clear he welcomes the prospect of Abbas succeeding Arafat.
However Shalom told the English language daily that he was “discouraged” by a recent speech from Abbas when he vowed to follow in the footsteps of Arafat and solve the plight of the Palestinian refugees.
“Abu Mazen’s first declaration was divided into two parts. The first part was that he will preserve Arafat’s legacy. For us that legacy is terrorism. We can’t live with that, but we can understand (such comments) during this period of elections,” Shalom said.
“The second part was that they would never give up on the right of return. That is unacceptable. These types of pronouncements are not encouraging, because they create illusions.”