Likud Information Minister Yuli Edelstein charged Tuesday afternoon that calls at the Fatah convention in Bethlehem for “resistance” are tantamount to a “declaration of war” against Israel. “They explicitly say that they support continuing the armed struggle,” he said, referring to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and other leaders who are called “moderates” by the international community, Israeli mainstream media and many political leaders.
He said that Israelis are “pretending not to hear the clear trend demonstrated by Abu Mazen [Abbas] and his people to adapt themselves to Hamas."
Abbas opened the convention with a long speech, in which the opening line praised the “martyrs” who died or were killed in previous terrorist attacks against Israel. Abbas, whose doctoral thesis focused on denying the Holocaust, told approximately 2,000 delegates, “Although we have chosen peace, we maintain the right to launch an armed resistance.”
Other calls for “resistance” issued by Fatah leaders Monday evening prompted former Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) director Avi Dichter (Kadima) to warn that a third Intifada may soon erupt.
However, Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded that Israel should ignore Fatah rhetoric and that the real test of Fatah's intentions will come after the convention. He has been implementing a policy of lifting checkpoints and roadblocks to ease travel for Arabs in Judea and Samaria, where residents recently have reported an increase in stoning and firebombing attacks.
He also reiterated on Tuesday promises to destroy more than two dozen hilltop communities in Judea and Samaria.
TIME magazine noted that Fatah’s leadership thinks that the faction must “break with American tutelage, and seek to reclaim the mantle of ‘resistance’ from Hamas.”
The magazine, which took a highly critical stand against Israel during the Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign in Gaza earlier this year, added, “Early signs suggest that the conference will, if anything, weaken the Palestinian leader's ability to follow Washington's script.”