Daily Israel Report

Abu Mazen: Little Jihad is Over, Big Jihad Starts

Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) received just over 62% of the vote, and will take Arafat's place as Palestinian Authority chief - with a practically identical platform.
First Publish: 1/10/2005, 8:24 PM / Last Update: 1/10/2005, 10:06 AM

Appearing before cheering crowds last night, Abu Mazen said that the period of the "little Jihad [holy war] had ended, and now the big Jihad is beginning." This quote led to a quaint exchange on Israel Radio's morning newsmagazine. Arabic-speaking correspondent Avi Yisacharov played the tapes of Abu Mazen's quotes, and then quickly said, "Regarding the future..." He was immediately interrupted by anchorman Aryeh Golan, who said, "Whoa, wait a second. What's this 'big Jihad' stuff?" Yisacharov gave a nervous chuckle and said, "I don't think he means a real Jihad, he just means the challenges ahead of reforms in the PA and the release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel..."

Yisacharov similarly played a recording of a leading Abu Mazen supporter singing in joy at the results of the election, and explained that it was simply "an old PLO war song."

Abu Mazen did little to allay Israeli fears that he is no different than Arafat. He said he dedicates his victory to "brother shahid [martyr] Yasser Arafat," to the "shahids and prisoners," and to the "Palestinian people from Rafiach to Jenin." The crowd responded, "A Million Shahids Marching to Jerusalem!"

MK Shimon Peres, who is expected to be named Associate Prime Minister this afternoon if the Knesset approves the new composition of the government, said that Abu Mazen will have to apologize for the "big Jihad" statement, "just like he apologized for his 'Zionist enemy' statement." Peres added that Abu Mazen was a "moderate, smart and experienced, and we have to give him a chance."

Peres is famous for his lukewarm reactions to militant statements by Arafat as well. For instance, after Arafat's Johannesburg speech explaining that his agreement to make peace with Israel was merely temporary, and calling for Jihad against Israel, then-Foreign Minister Peres insisted the recording was a fraud and right-wing propaganda.

Less than two years ago, in March 2003, Abu Mazen told the London-based Arabic paper A-Sharq al-Aussat, "The intifada must continue, and it is the right of the Palestinian people to resist and use all possible means in order to defend its presence and existence. I add and say that if the Israelis come to your land in order to erect a settlement then it is your right to defend what is yours [using] all means and arms as long as they are coming to your home..." Peres said at the time, "It doesn't matter what they say..."

Though Abu Mazen has said that the intifada was a mistake, and that now is "not the proper time" for violence, he campaigned with armed terrorists and was even photographed atop the shoulders of wanted terrorist Zakaria Zubeidi of Jenin. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell responded, Peres-like, by saying that this was "disturbing, but I don't think it reflects his overall approach to governing."

Abu Mazen continues to adhere to the traditionally maximalist demands of full Israeli withdrawal from all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a PLO state, and "right of return."