Abbas: A Third Intifada?

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Speaking with reporters in Argentina on Monday evening, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said his people would not launch a third intifada (armed Palestinian uprising).

"The Palestinian people are focused only on the path of peace through negotiations," Abbas told reporters following a meeting with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez. 

But less than two weeks ago at a ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death, Abbas had a different message for the people.

"We will continue [Arafat's] long and exhausting struggle, fraught with blood, sweat and tears," the PA president said.

"The road today is anchored in a noble heritage of struggle that we built with brave hands, an enlightened mind, and a national thinking [rooted in] long experience," he said.

"We combined armed struggle with political activity. Our guns were not the guns of highway robbers. They were political guns [with] a noble goal," Abbas said.

So what's the plan?

According to one member of the Fatah Central Committee quoted in Qatari's al-Arab newspaper, "The [Fatah] movement has taken a decision to launch a third intifada in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] in response to Israel's stubbornness and the failure of the political process, this decision that was endorsed by the Fatah Sixth General Congress…The third intifada will be more intense than the previous ones, but will be confined to popular [resistance] without the use of firearms."

The strategy - at this point - is to surround Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria with thousands of Palestinians, intimidating and harassing the residents. Will they be unarmed? Will they throw rocks?

Not all Palestinian leaders have expressed a willingness to lay down their weapons and adopt the "new" strategy.

"If negotiations fail, we will turn to armed struggle," Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Sha'ath said in a recent interview.

Former head of Fatah's Tanzim militia, Marwan Barghouti, serving five consecutive life sentences for murder, told Reuters news agency that he had "always called for creatively combining negotiations with resistance and political, diplomatic and popular activism."

Last August, at Fatah's congress in Bethlehem, senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said "resistance" has been and will always be Fatah policy.

"Resistance was and is a tactical and strategic option of the struggle, which are part of Fatah's policy and which Israel must acknowledge," Rajoub said.

Will there be a third intifada? What form will it take? Time will tell.

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MEMRI contributed to this article.

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