January 10, 2005
An Israeli diplomat says he hopes whoever is elected as the new president of the Palestinian National Authority on Sunday will not follow the terrorist policies of Yasser Arafat. Concern is growing, however, over recent comments made by the frontrunner for that office.
Mahmoud Abbas has been seen by both Israel and the United States as a moderate and welcomed by both nations as a possible successor to Arafat. But lately in his campaign for PNA headship, Abbas has been making promises that suggest he intends to follow in his late predecessor's footsteps.
Arye Mekel, the Consulate General of Israel in New York City, says he hopes the next Palestinian leader will follow a different path, "namely different than Arafat." He feels the past four decades under the direction of the former Palestinian leader and terrorist strongman have done his people little if any good.
"Whoever is elected," Mekel says, "I think they know that Arafat, who's been the leader 40 years, has brought them nothing. They still don't have a state, they still live in misery, and the entire world regards them as terrorists."
Several observers are finding increasing cause for concern about the man who would succeed Arafat. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Abbas's recent inflammatory reference to Israel as the "Zionist Enemy" intolerable and unacceptable. And Secretary of State Colin Powell has noted that he found the sight of Abbas being lifted onto the shoulders of a terrorist gunman recently "disturbing."
According to Abbas' campaign website, the Palestinian politician, who is also known as Abu Mazen, was born in Palestine but fled to Syria with his family after an armed Jewish organization attacked and subsequently occupied his home city of Safad. The site says at 12 years of age, the young refugee worked to support his family, and he later attended school in Syria, eventually earning a law degree at Damascus University.
The Palestinian refugee-turned-scholar went on to obtain his doctorate from the Orientalism Institute in Moscow in 1982, where the title of his doctoral thesis was "The Secret Liaisons between Nazi Germany and the Zionist Movement." For several years Abbas worked in the Ministry of Education in Qatar, until 1970, when he resigned to commit himself fully to Palestinian politics. Over the years, he has authored several books and articles, including "Zionism: Beginning and End," "Arch of Evil," "Racial and Religious Polarization in Israel," and other significant political studies.
Abbas served as chair of the elections committee of the first Palestinian elections between the years of 1996-2002 and was the first to occupy the newly-created position of the Palestinian National Authority Prime Minister in April 2003. He was elected Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in November of 2004, following the death of President Yasser Arafat.
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