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memri
May 23, 2005 No.
223

Abu Mazen's Presidency: An Interim Assessment

By: C. Jacob*
Introduction

Upon his election as president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) declared he would act to halt the "militarization of the Intifada" and made a commitment to impose law and order in the PA in order to ensure the residents' security and to further the interests of the Palestinian people. However, to date he has been only partially successful in reaching these goals, mainly because of his desire to avoid violent domestic conflict.

In an interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel, Abu Mazen said: "I don't have a magic wand, but I was elected on the basis of my positions and views. This is my weapon, from which I draw my authority... No country in the world can allow more than one government... Therefore, we may impose this principle by force if necessary. We are not seeking confrontation with the armed groups. We wish to reach agreement with them, and to date we have succeeded in doing so. If there are any problems, we will meet again and discuss [the issues] with them. This is my way of resolving problems of violence." [1]

This paper assesses the developments that have taken place in the PA since Abu Mazen's election, regarding the following issues: stopping the militarization of the Intifada, imposing law and order, uniting the Palestinian security apparatuses, dealing with incitement in the media, and achieving tahdiah (reaching a state of calm), as agreed in the Cairo dialogue (the concluding statement of the Cairo dialogue is presented in an appendix).

Gunmen Still Carry Unlicensed Weapons in Public – In Violation of PA Cabinet Decision

Following the election, the PA cabinet decided to ban the carrying of unlicensed weapons in public, and issued a directive to this effect. However, the many demonstrations by gunmen and the violent incidents that have occurred since then – such as the gunfire directed at Abu Mazen's office, the shooting at PA Interior Minister Nasser Yousef's convoy during his visit to Jenin, the violent clashes between Fatah gunmen and Palestinian policemen, and the disruption of a recent Fatah convention by gunfire – all indicate that this directive is not being enforced. [2]

In response to the gunfire directed at Nasser Yousef's convoy, PA Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei (Abu Alaa) said: "There is a state of chaos, and bringing it to an end heads our list of priorities. The incident was handled by the interior minister, who decided, with our backing, to pension off some of the leaders of the apparatuses or to transfer them to the central region, because the incident occurred within their jurisdiction." [3]

After Nasser Yousef met with General Security Force in the West Bank Commander in Chief Haj Isma'il Jaber, Jenin Governor Qaddura Musa, and representatives of Fatah and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin, Zakaria Al-Zbeidi, said that he had "explained to Nasser Yousef that the incident was not directed against Yousef personally in his capacity as interior minister, or against the PA, but was intended to protest against [the fact] that senior security officials in Jenin had not coordinated the visit to the refugee camp [with Al-Zbeidi]." [4]

In general, the gunmen are not deterred from attacking security apparatus or government personnel. For example, shots were fired at the home of former minister Jamil Al-Tarifi [5] and twice at the home of Northern Gaza Governor Sakhr Bsiso. [6] Gunmen shot to death a military intelligence officer in Gaza. [7] A Jericho resident fired at a military intelligence vehicle in Jericho, killing a Palestinian police officer. [8] A member of the General Intelligence Apparatus was shot to death by a Civil Defense officer during a brawl in Ramallah. [9] Gunmen stormed the detention facilities of the Palestinian security apparatuses in Gaza, killing two prisoners and abducting another whom they subsequently killed. [10]

Journalists too are not immune to violence. Gunmen, some belonging to the Palestinian security apparatuses, attacked and beat up three journalists in Gaza so badly that they required medical treatment. [11]

Even within the Fatah movement, violence prevails. Members of Fatah's Recruitment and Organization Bureau left the organization because of the younger generation's struggle against the older generation on issues such as reform, elections, and replacing Hani Al-Hassan as bureau chairman. Fatah subsequently held a convention in Ramallah, but it was disrupted by gunmen who stormed the building, firing their weapons. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades commander Minwar Al-Aqra', who was involved in the incident, declared that "the reforms will come from worthy leaders who are not accused of corruption. Those who convened here are just a tiny minority, while we represent thousands of Fatah fighters." [12] Fatah leader Hussein Al-Sheikh accused the Fatah Central Committee of sending the gunmen: "They incited and schemed against the convention, because they want to be the only ones in the leadership and they want to rule Fatah by force." [13]

In response, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades issued a statement denying any connection to the incident. A communiqué sent to the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat read: "We deny any connection to the barbaric events that were perpetrated out of greed and were intended to hurt the fighting comrades from the Fatah movement, who support reforms... The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades will fight against all the wretched, corrupt and deviant people in the movement and the leadership's institutions, who have infiltrated the top of the pyramid of the leadership of the movement and the PA... We call upon our comrade Abu Mazen to end [the actions of] the corrupt [people] in the Central Committee, who have taken advantage of the name of the Brigades to realize [their own] narrow personal interests." [14]

According to a senior Palestinian source, another manifestation of the lack of security in the PA, even among top officials, is the tension between Deputy Prime Minister and Information Minister Nabil Sha'ath and Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, which emerged when Fayyad opposed Sha'ath's request for an armored vehicle. [15]

Palestinian sources reported that since the Palestinian cabinet's decision prohibiting the carrying of unlicensed firearms in public has not been enforced, Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousef has made another effort to restrict the gunmen's activities, and has ordered them to sign statements of personal undertaking regarding the new restrictions to be imposed on them. [16]

Nonetheless, the next day dozens of the released prisoners demonstrated in Nablus, publicly carrying firearms. They were protesting "the PA's neglect of them after their release, and its failure to help them find jobs." [17]

Furthermore, about a week later, gunmen shot at Abu Mazen's office after they found out that he intended to expel the wanted men who had been sheltered in the Mukata'a since Yasser Arafat's time. Gunmen also rioted in the streets of Ramallah and caused damage to restaurants and cafes, after chasing the patrons away with gunfire. [18]

In response, Ramallah leaders and institutions released a communiqué harshly critical of the Palestinian security apparatuses, blaming them and the Palestinian government for the chaos. [19]

As a result, Abu Mazen removed West Bank Commander in Chief Haj Isma'il Jaber, and ordered the deployment of security forces in Ramallah so as to ensure public order. General Intelligence Apparatus Commander Tawfiq Al-Tirawi announced his resignation, and those close to him explained to Abu Mazen that he was resigning because of "the chaos due to the fact that some security apparatus are negligent in their tasks… and are hiding the truth from Abu Mazen." [20] In addition, Abu Mazen issued a presidential order to establish two committees, authorizing them to disarm the wanted men in the Mukata'a and incorporate them into the Palestinian security apparatuses. [21] In a press interview, he said: "One thousand officers have been pensioned off…" In the same interview, he said "I will continue to fight tirelessly for security and for reform, and will not despair; [but] when I lose hope I will not remain." [22]

PA columnists expressed unprecedented criticism of the Palestinian security apparatuses and the PA. Al-Ayyam daily columnist Abdallah 'Awwad said that although the security apparatuses receive one-quarter of the PA budget, they are totally unsuccessful in providing basic internal security. "The security apparatuses are weak, sick, and infected with [people acting as] intermediaries in order to receive benefits... They are more interested in budgets, power, and appearances than in work." [23]

Al-Ayyam columnist Hani Habib wrote: "A great hope for change has motivated us [to stand] behind Mahmoud Abbas, and we had hoped that reforms would be started by [PA Interior Minister] General Nasser Yousef... But it appears that the hopes have faded... Abbas has been successful in the Cairo dialogue with all the factions... but has failed dismally where he should have succeeded, within the Fatah movement." [24]

At a press conference marking Abu Mazen's 100th day as president, he said, in response to a question about the weapons possessed by Hamas: "When a party, movement, or militia becomes a political party it does not need weapons any longer... There is one rule, one law, one legal weapon, and political pluralism." [25]

A Partial Halt to the Militarization of the Intifada

The PA has demonstrated efforts to bring about change and calm [tahdiah]. Abu Mazen ordered the deployment of Palestinian security forces in an effort to prevent attacks on Israeli communities. This directive was welcomed by Palestinian residents. [26] Nevertheless, it was not long before dozens of mortars were fired at Israeli communities. In response, Abu Mazen promptly dismissed top Palestinian officers. [27] Since then, the fragility of the state of calm is becoming evident (see below, "The Dialogue toward Hudna Ended in Tahdiah ").

Palestinian security apparatuses have been unable to completely prevent attacks within Israel. [28] Abu Mazen strongly denounced the February 25, 2005 attack at the Stage club in Tel Aviv, but said: "It was perpetrated by individuals, and all the Palestinian factions have denied any involvement." He claimed that Israel was responsible because the areas from which the attackers came were under Israeli control: "The aim of the destructive attack, which is worthy of every condemnation, is to sabotage the peace process and harm our people's reputation. We will pursue [the perpetrators] and bring them to trial so that they will be punished." [29]

On the eve of a conference on Palestinian reform held in London on March 1, Abu Mazen declared: "I am investing 100% of my efforts to bring about the cessation of violence against Israel, and I will not allow attacks like the one in Tel Aviv. [However,] a full and final cessation of violence is not possible while the Israeli army is killing Palestinians daily." [30]

Regarding the PA's actions following the attack on the Stage, at first it was reported that the Palestinian security apparatuses had arrested some Islamic Jihad members in Tulkarm, [31] but later various Palestinian sources reported that the case had been closed. Fatah Central Committee member Sakhr Habash said: "The PA and the Islamic Jihad movement have finally agreed to close the case of the [Tel Aviv] operation, on the condition that the [Jihad] movement would conduct an internal investigation and punish those responsible." An Islamic Jihad leader, Nafez 'Azzam, denied any complicity in the Tel Aviv attack – either his own or his organization's: "Closing the case has led to two main issues: First – the movement is committed to achieving calm on the basis of the understandings it reached with Chairman Mahmoud Abbas…, and second – the movement will persevere in its efforts to strengthen the internal dialogue and to make it successful." [32]

About a week after the attack, Civil Affairs Minister Muhammad Dahlan declared: "The PA will prevent any military operation against Israel and will take legal steps against the perpetrators... There must be no infractions by the Palestinians lest Israel use them as a pretext to renege on its commitments." [33]

Various PA columnists discussed the attack on the Stage club. The editor of the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Hafez Al-Barghouti, said that Israel was making too much of the attack for political gain and propaganda purposes, to pressure the Palestinian leadership into taking action – thereby dismissing its own responsibility for the attack. He said, "The occupation is to blame for everything that is happening, because it is [the occupation] and not the PA that controls the area security-wise. [After all,] in Gaza – which is controlled by the PA – it [the PA] has managed to achieve calm both through dialogue and by deploying its forces. How can it do that in the [West] Bank, which is occupied?" [34]

Talal 'Awkal, a columnist in the PA daily Al-Ayyam, said that the Palestinians are the only ones to be damaged by the attack. "The operation is Israel's net gain. The operation provided [Israel] with the cover it needed and anticipated in order to justify its evasion of its commitments, and in order to create facts on the ground and to export a situation of conflict and crisis to the Palestinian [arena]... There is a need for perseverance to achieve calm while not giving in to the Israeli demands..." [35] Al-Ayyam columnist Yahya Rabah wrote: "Such an operation is a severe mistake in terms of timing, location and target... an operation serving Satan." [36]

Despite the attack, some positive steps have been taken to halt the militarization of the Intifada. The security apparatuses' counter-terrorism activity has led to the discovery of weapons in the village of Dura in Hebron. A senior official in the Palestinian security forces, Jihad Abu 'Amr, said: "For the first time in four years, the Palestinian police has seized grenades and weapons in the West Bank... during an operation ordered by Abbas and Interior Minister Nasser Yousef." [37]

Palestinian Sources: Wanted Men in Jericho and Tulkarm Have Joined the Security Forces

Following the IDF withdrawal from Jericho and Tulkarm, the London daily Al-Quds Al-'Arabi reported that "200 wanted Palestinians have given in their weapons and have joined the security apparatuses in Jericho and Tulkarm." The chairman of the committee dealing with the issue of wanted and deported Palestinians, Abd Al-Fattah Hamail, said that the PA would do the same in other cities from which Israel withdraws. [38]

There are contradictory reports regarding the implementation of Israel's demand that the PA collect the firearms possessed by wanted Palestinians. It appears that the PA is recruiting them into the ranks of the security apparatuses, interpreting that move as a fulfillment of the Israeli demand.

PA Interior Minister Nasser Yousef said: "There will be only one legal weapon: the weapon of the [Palestinian] police. We will find the way to fulfill our commitments to the movements and factions and to the armed Palestinian wings in a way that prevents civil war." [39]

Tulkarm Governor 'Izz Al-Din Al-Sharif said: "All the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades activists have been absorbed into the Palestinian security apparatuses, and the steps and arrangements concerning the firearms will be between the wanted men and the security apparatuses." Commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Tulkarm Abu Firas said: "The commanders of the Brigades and their activists in Tulkarm have handed in their firearms to the PA and have joined the security apparatuses, each according to his own decision."

Abd Al-Fattah Hamail said: "The PA has collected the weapons of the 110 wanted men in Tulkarm and Jericho after they all signed a document pledging to desist from further armed attacks against Israelis." He said the wanted men had been recruited into the Palestinian security forces, and whatever applied to the security apparatuses would apply to them too. [40]

Unification of the PA Security Apparatuses: Still in Progress

One of Abu Mazen's major achievements has been the structural reform of the defense apparatuses. At the March 1 London conference, Abu Mazen said: "We have deployed forces on the ground, and have made a final decision to unite the security apparatuses... We will continue to implement this decision despite the difficulties." [41]

In mid-April Abu Mazen issued four decisions concerning the unification of the Palestinian security apparatuses under the Ministry of the Interior and National Security. The decisions are as follows:

1) National Security will comprise all of its subsections (the National Security forces, Army Intelligence, the Naval Police, the Presidential Security/Force 17, and the Special Forces). The Ministry of the Interior will comprise the Police, the Preventive Security apparatus, and the Civilian Guard. General Intelligence, as for now, is not included.

2) The National Security and the General Security apparatuses were asked to submit detailed rosters with the names of their men and the number of their members...

3) Contacts with foreign elements will be regulated. They shall be carried out only through the Minister of the Interior and National Security. Heads of security apparatuses and their men will not be allowed to make any foreign contacts, for any purpose or for whatever reasons.

4) The mission statement of the Presidential Security/Force 17 is to be defined by the president and shall remain unchanged, except for the units which were detailed to the National Security forces in Gaza. [42]

One week later, Abu Mazen announced the names of the new heads of the security apparatuses: Suleiman Khilles as head of National Security; Husni Rabay'a (AKA 'Alaa Husni) as Chief of Police; and Tareq Abu Rajab as head of General Intelligence. In addition, more than one thousand officers over the age of 60 were forced to retire, including senior officers such as Musa Arafat, who served as head of National Security, and Amin Al-Hindi, who served as head of General Intelligence. Both of the latter have been appointed as advisors to Abu Mazen. [43]

Following a meeting between PA Interior Minister Nasser Yousef and the new heads of the security apparatuses, Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khosa said: "The Palestinian security apparatuses will begin a multi-purpose campaign of determined resistance to the negative phenomena in order to implement the rule of law." [44]

The Dialogue Toward Hudna Ended in Tahdiah

The dialogue between the Palestinian factions, which was postponed numerous times, finally began on March 15 in Cairo, and ended with a call for tahdiah [calming the situation]. Prior to the dialogue, Hamas announced that there would be no hudna [truce] if Israel did not accept the Palestinians' conditions, including the release of all prisoners. [45] Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar warned that "if the conditions of the resistance are not met at the earliest opportunity, and if there is any attempt to circumvent these conditions, we will resume firing in order to compel them to meet our conditions. We emphasize that the Al-Qassam Brigades will not lay down their arms until Palestine is liberated." [46] In a march supporting the "resistance" in Lebanon, held in Gaza on February 11, 2005, during which U.S. and Israeli flags were set on fire, one of the Islamic Jihad leaders, Muhammad Al-Hindi, declared: "We will not allow Israel to impose a new equation on the conflict – that it will continue to kill, attack, arrest, and invade without a response by the resistance." [47]

Although referring to the efforts to reach a truce, the concluding statement of the Cairo dialogue used the word tahdiah. The statement included an agreement to continue the calm in exchange for an Israeli commitment to cease any kind of aggression against the Palestinians and to release all the prisoners. However, it emphasized the Palestinian people's right to "resistance" in order to achieve its aims, including the right of return of the refugees to their homes. In addition, it stressed that: "T he continuation of [Israeli] settlement, the construction of the fence, and the Judaization of East Jerusalem were factors [that have the potential to cause] an explosion." [48]

PA Chairman Abu Mazen described the Cairo dialogue as being "a great national success." Upon his return from Jordan he told journalists that "all the factions had unconditionally agreed to tahdiah." [49] National security advisor Jibril Rajoub described the dialogue as "an historic achievement." [50]

Head of the Hamas political bureau Khaled Mash'al said: "We agreed on tahdiah under clearly defined conditions: cessation of Israeli aggression towards the Palestinian people and release of the prisoners... This does not mean that the option of resistance has been dropped. As long as there is occupation, we will remain a resistance movement... Resistance is an option which we maintain, but we would like to give the regional and international pressure on the occupation a chance in order to realize the Palestinian people's interests." [51] During a Hamas march in the Jabalya refugee camp, one of the movement's leaders declared that the kidnapping of soldiers remains an option if the prisoners are not released. He issued a warning to the Israeli prime minister: "We may imprison soldiers just like you have imprisoned our sons and children." [52]

Senior Islamic Jihad official Abu 'Imad Al-Rifa'i announced that "even though the concluding statement [of the Cairo dialogue] did not define the duration of the tahdiah, it will continue only if Israel fulfills its obligations. If the Israelis do not consent, the resistance will know how to respond." [53]

The Popular Resistance Committees [a terrorist organization composed of Fatah dissenters and former Palestinian security apparatus members] announced that: "The tahdiah agreed upon with Abu Mazen some two months ago ended on the morning of March 19" and said that they "intended to resume the firing of Nasser 3 missiles and the use of explosives against the Israeli occupation forces... This is because the Committees [members] were not consulted about the renewal of the tahdiah." [54] In response, PA Chairman Abu Mazen said: "This is an internal matter which can be dealt with." [55]

It should be noted that in the Cairo dialogue the Palestinian factions reached domestic political understandings on the organizational level as well. The concluding statement said that elections for the Legislative Council and the local authorities would take place at an agreed-upon time and in accordance with an agreed-upon method, thereby appeasing the Hamas movement. It was also agreed that a committee would be established that would include "all the Palestinian forces and factions" within the PLO, which is "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people." [56]

Head of the Hamas political bureau Khaled Mash'al said: "What has been agreed upon is a serious step towards a political partnership in making the Palestinian decisions." [57] In an interview to the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, he said: "For the Hamas, tahdiah is a ploy in the resistance plan, whereas for the PA it is a way to get out of the resistance plan... Nevertheless, we are giving [tahdiah] a chance." [58]

PA daily Al-Ayyam columnist Ashraf Al-Ajrami said: "There is a marked change and unprecedented seriousness on the part of the Islamic opposition in general, and of Fatah in particular, in their willingness to be true political partners in the decision-making institutions in the PA and the PLO... In the past these elements were not prepared to think about this seriously... These changes cannot be detached... from the public mood and sentiments and from [the way] the regional and international changes are received." [59]

Al-Ayyam columnist Abdallah 'Awwad criticized the Palestinian factions, pondering over whether this constitutes capitulation or tahdiah. "Our factions and our Palestinian forces, which have controlled us from the inception of our political consciousness, are backward factions which set out as pure, clean and legitimate, and gradually... became a pretentious group of hedonists with interests that dictate their policy, their fluctuations and changes, and the direction in which they go. After all, nothing has changed in terms of the tahdiah, which [up until recently] was considered forbidden – tantamount to betrayal of the blood of the martyrs and the wounded – and which has become permitted, acceptable, and a positive step." [60]

Al-Ayyam columnist Hani Habib associated the tahdiah with reform: "The tahdiah will expose the true official trends regarding reform. The Palestinian situation makes it possible, more than ever in the past, to begin to carry out true reform in a practical sense, if there is a true will... When there is tahdiah or hudna, all types of corruption must cease, and there is no more logic in continuing to avoid implementing true reforms." [61]

The tahdiah has not, in fact, been fully upheld in recent months. On March 23, 2005, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades detonated an explosive device that hit an Israeli military ambulance. A Brigades spokesman said: "The resistance will not hesitate to confront the occupation forces if they enter Nablus." [62] In a recent shooting attack on Morag, an Israeli civilian was wounded. The Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the attack. [63] A few days later, a Qassam missile was fired at Sderot. [64] Following the death of three Palestinian youths by IDF fire in Rafah, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades fired dozens of missiles and mortars at Israeli communities. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuheiri said: "The killing of the three youths is a grave violation of the state of calm. Our people and the resistance forces retain the right to respond to this aggression." [65] Abu Mazen described the killing of the youths as a deliberate violation of the state of calm, saying: "We will not agree to the blood of our people being spilled in vain, and with such ease." [66]

On April 25, 2005, Qassam missiles were again fired at Sderot. Abu Mazen denounced the attack, saying: "This is a single incident which diverges from the national consensus. These operations must be stopped by any means." [67] Two days later, on April 27, the firing of Qassam missiles resumed, this time inside the Gaza Strip. Speaking at the Palestinian police headquarters in Gaza following the appointment of the new heads of the security apparatuses, Abu Mazen announced: "The PA will prevent any violation of the tahdiah even if it is necessary to use force. There is a consensus about the tahdiah, and anybody who diverges from it will be hit with an iron fist." He criticized the April 27 firing of Qassam missiles, emphasizing "the importance of providing security to the residents." [68]

Nevertheless, additional incidents have occurred. On May 2, 2005, following the assassination of a leader of the military wing of Islamic Jihad in Tulkarm, Islamic Jihad members fired three Qassam missiles at Sderot. [69] A few days later, on May 6, members of the organization fired another three Qassam missiles at Sderot. [70]

The PA daily Al-Ayyam reported that the Palestinian security apparatuses had arrested three members of the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas, as they were preparing to fire missiles towards Israel. [71] Hamas claimed that only one member had been arrested and subsequently released. The PA Interior Ministry announced that he had been released after long talks with the Hamas leadership, under the auspices of and with the intervention of the Egyptian embassy. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuheiri said there had been no justification for the arrest. He accused the PA of "documenting some weapons and presenting them to the media as if it had arrested a terrorist cell. Abu Mazen demanded punishing the officer involved in the incident, and called to resolve any conflict through friendly direct talks and without a show of force." [72]

On May 18, the Palestinian security forces tried to prevent the shelling of Israeli communities from Khan Yunis, and in response, Hamas activists opened fire on the security personnel, wounding three. [73]

On May 21, a senior PA official announced that the commanders of the Palestinian security forces had reached an agreement with activists to stop the shelling of Israeli communities in efforts to save what he called the hudna. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuheiri said: "The Hamas is committed to the tahdiah, but the resistance operations are a response to Israeli violence." [74]

PA Interior Minister Nasser Yousef told the heads of the Palestinian security apparatuses in Gaza that the tahdiah must be upheld as a Palestinian national consensus, in order to avoid falling into the Israeli trap, which is to drag the Palestinians into a military confrontation." [75]

Incitement in the PA Media

Incitement in the Palestinian press and mosque sermons has decreased significantly. Nevertheless, expressions in favor of martyrdom [shahada] are still in evidence.

Thus, for example, the Palestinian press used the term "martyr" [shahid] in its coverage of the suicide bombing at the Stage club in Tel Aviv.

In his Friday sermon of January 28, 2005 at a Gaza mosque, Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris said the Palestinian factions' acceptance of tahdiah was due to the need to reserve strength for the greatest confrontations: "The Palestinian factions, which have sacrificed their leaders and their people in order to protect this land,... have accepted President Mahmoud Abbas' call for tahdiah in order to allow ourselves a fighter's rest [after] five years of suffering. Brothers, a fighter needs his rest... When Muhammad fought his enemies, he conducted only two wars a year... [Our] interest[s] require [us] to reserve our blood and our weapons for the greatest confrontations. The Prophet reconciled with the enemies, and wished to live in neighborly [relations] with some of the infidels in order to protect Muslim lives." [76]

In his Friday sermon of March 11, 2005, attended by Abu Mazen, PA Minister of Endowments Yousuf Jum'a Salama praised early Islamic heroine Al-Khansaa: [77] "She sent her four sons, the fruit of her womb, to the battlefield at Al-Qadisiyya in the service of Islam. On the day she learned that they had fallen as shahid s, she said: 'Praise Allah, who has honored me with their deaths.'" [78]

Contrasting with such statements are other sermons bearing a more positive message about striving for peace. For example, Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris himself said in his March 18 Friday sermon at a Gaza mosque: "You in Palestine are dying for the sake of Allah. But what is being asked of us is to live for the sake of Allah. For living for the sake of Allah is more difficult, because he who does not live properly for the sake of Allah will not die properly for the sake of Allah." [79]

At a meeting with Christian clerics following the presidential election, Abu Mazen called striving for peace "the great Jihad": "As I have already said, the small Jihad has ended, and now comes the great Jihad – and the meaning of the great Jihad is striving to establish peace." [80]

Deputy Prime Minister and Information Minister Nabil Sha'ath took a positive step to prevent incitement. On May 18, 2005, he demanded that Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris be arrested, interrogated and prevented from delivering Friday sermons, after a particularly venomous sermon on May 13, which was broadcast on PA TV. In it Mudeiris said: "... Allah warned His beloved Prophet Muhammad about the Jews, who had killed their prophets, forged their Torah, and sowed corruption throughout their history.

With the establishment of the state of Israel, the entire Islamic nation was lost, because Israel is a cancer spreading through the body of the Islamic nation, and because the Jews are a virus resembling AIDS, from which the entire world suffers."

Mudeiris accused Zionism of responsibility for the Holocaust and played down the number of Jewish victims: "It was the Jews who provoked Nazism to wage war against the entire world, when the Jews, using the Zionist movement, got other countries to wage an economic war on Germany and to boycott German merchandise. They provoked Russia, Britain, France, and Italy. This enraged the Germans toward the Jews, leading to the events of those days, which the Jews commemorate today.

"But they are committing worse deeds than those done to them in the Nazi war. Yes, perhaps some of them were killed and some burned, but they are inflating this in order to win over some of the media and to gain the world's sympathy. The worst crimes in history were committed against the Jews, yet these crimes are no worse than what the Jews are doing in Palestine..."

"We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the day will come when we will rule the entire world again. The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world – except for the Jews. The Jews will not enjoy a life of tranquility under our rule, because they are treacherous by nature, as they have been throughout history. The day will come when everything will be relieved of the Jews - even the stones and trees which were harmed by them. Listen to the Prophet Muhammad, who tells you about the evil end that awaits Jews. The stones and trees will want the Muslims to finish off every Jew." [81]

Palestinians Protest Against Continued Lawlessness

In order to demonstrate that law is indeed being enforced the PA is currently making an effort to play up its solving of crimes and its war on Palestinian car-theft rings that steal Israeli vehicles. The London daily Al-Hayat reported that the Palestinian police have made great strides since the mid-February 2005 appointment of Brigadier-General Hamdi Al-Rifi as General Investigations Department director: "The department has gone from activity after the crime to crime prevention… Among the recent detainees are young girls suspected of theft, other women suspected of running a string of brothels, and a gang of robbery suspects." [82]

In contrast, a March 15 demonstration in Ramallah in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council building called on the Palestinian government and security apparatuses "to act immediately to put an end to the lack of security and to re-institute the law – all against the backdrop of the murder of a moneychanger, cases of lawbreaking, and the residents' sense that there is insufficient security and quiet." [83]

Editor of PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida Hafez Al-Barghouti harshly criticized the situation: "The Americans announce that we must act in such and such a way in order to gain a state – and then some of us go and abduct a security chief. The London conference sets out a plan to stabilize the foundations of the state – and then one of us [suddenly] discovers that Palestine is occupied and carries out an operation. The world starts to talk of the need to establish a Palestinian state as something essential to world peace – and then a few of us grab the weapons concealed for time of war and burst into a university. The interior minister tries to raise morale among the security forces in order to restore their lost prestige – and then he gets shot at." [84]

PA daily Al-Ayyam columnistMuhammad Yaghi, a supporter of the Geneva initiative, maintains that the PA is showing helplessness: "The PA is trying to institute security by the means at its disposal, but is incapable of completing its mission as needed due to its lack of control in the field and due to the weakness of its institutions and the public's lack of confidence in it." [85]

Appendix: Concluding Statement of the Cairo Dialogue

"In response to the noble invitation of Egypt, [our sister] country, which gives its sponsorship – for which it must be thanked – a Palestinian dialogue conference was convened in Egypt from March 15 through March 18, with the participation of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the participation of 12 organizations and factions.

  1. The participants stressed adherence to the Palestinian principles, with no concessions, and the Palestinian people's right of 'resistance,' in order to end the occupation and to establish a fully sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and to guarantee the refugees' right of return to their homes and plots of land.
  2. The participants agreed on a plan for 2005 focusing [on the preservation of] the commitment to continue the current atmosphere of tahdiah in exchange for a mutual Israeli commitment to stop all forms of aggression against our lands and against our Palestinian people wherever it exists, and to liberate all prisoners and detainees.
  3. The participants stressed that the continuation of [Israeli] settlement, the construction of the fence, and the Judaization of East Jerusalem were factors [that have the potential to cause] an explosion.
  4. The participants discussed the domestic Palestinian situation and arrived at an agreement regarding the need to complete comprehensive reforms in all spheres, to support democracy in all its aspects, and to hold elections for the local authorities and the Legislative Council at a time determined in accordance with an agreed-upon election law. The conference recommends that the Legislative Council move to change the Election Law for the Legislative Council and adopt a combination system [consisting of] two equal halves [50% using the method of electoral districts and 50% using the method of lists of candidates], and also recommends changing the Election Law for Local Authorities and adopting the relative representation [method].
  5. The participants agreed to transform the PLO into an active [organization] and to develop it according to agreed-upon principles, so that it will include all the Palestinian forces and factions – because it is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. To this end, it was agreed to establish a committee with the mission of determining these principles. The committee is comprise the chairman of the Palestinian National Council, members of the PLO Executive Committee, the secretaries-general of all the factions, and national figures. The Executive Committee chairman will convene its meetings.
  6. The participants agreed that dialogue is the only means for maintaining relations among all the elements, so as to support national unity and unity of the ranks amongst the Palestinians. They further agreed that the use of weapons during internal conflict is forbidden, and that the rights of the Palestinian residents must be honored and that they [the residents] must not be harmed. Completing the dialogue is considered a basic need for achieving unity, for the sake of the common goal and the preservation of Palestinian rights." [86]

*C. Jacob is a Research Fellow for The Middle East Media Research Institute.


[1] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 1, 2005.

[2] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 1, 2005.

[3] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), March 4, 2005.

[4] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), March 2, 2005.

[5] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), March 5, 2005.

[6] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 19, 2005.

[7] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 23, 2005.

[8] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 8, 2005.

[9] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), March 7, 2005.

[10] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 15, 2005.

[11] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), February 15, 2005.

[12] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 11, 2005.

[13] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 11, 2005.

[14] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 12, 2005.

[15] Kul Al-Arab (Nazareth), March 11, 2005.

[16] Al-Quds al Arabi (London), March 22, 2005.

[17] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 24, 2005.

[18] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 31, 2005.

[19] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), April 1, 2005.

[20] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 4, 2005.

[21] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), April 4, 2005.

[22] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), April 5, 2005.

[23] Al-Ayyam (PA), April 3, 2005.

[24] Al-Ayyam (PA), April 3, 2005.

[25] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), April 26, 2005.

[26] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), January 25, 2005.

[27] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), February 11, 2005.

[28] In an interview with Israel Channel 1 television, Abu Mazen said the PA had prevented four or five attacks (March 11, 2005).

[29] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 27, 2005.

[30] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 1, 2005.

[31] Al-Risala (Gaza), March 3, 2005.

[32] Al-Hayat (London), March 4, 2005.

[33] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 7, 2005.

[34] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 28, 2005.

[35] Al-Ayyam (PA), February 28, 2005.

[36] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 27, 2005.

[37] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 6, 2005.

[38] Al-Quds Al-'Arabi (London), May 11, 2005.

[39] Al-Quds Al-'Arabi (London), May 11, 2005.

[40] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 14, 2005.

[41] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 2, 2005.

[42] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 15, 2005; Al-Ayyam (PA), April 15, 2005.

[43] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 25, 2005.

[44] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 1, 2005.

[45] Abu Mazen's National Security Advisor Jibril Rajoub said: "Hamas has agreed to a cease-fire... The declarations by some of the movement's secondary-ranking officials that they are not committed to a cease-fire do not reflect the official position of Hamas." Al-Quds Al-'Arabi (London), February 11, 2005.

[46] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 12, 2005.

[47] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 12, 2005.

[48] See Appendix.

[49] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 19, 2005.

[50] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 18, 2005.

[51] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 18, 2005.

[52] http://www.palestine-info.com/arabic/palestoday/dailynews/2005/mar05/18_3/details.htm#4, March 18, 2005.

[53] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 18, 2005.

[54] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 19, 2005.

[55] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 19, 2005.

[56] See Appendix.

[57] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 18, 2005.

[58] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 30, 2005.

[59] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 18, 2005.

[60] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 20, 2005.

[61] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 20, 2005.

[62] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 24, 2005.

[63] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), April 6, 2005.

[64] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), April 8, 2005.

[65] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), April 10, 2005.

[66] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), April 10, 2005.

[67] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), April 27, 2005.

[68] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), April 28, 2005.

[69] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 3, 2005.

[70] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 7, 2005.

[71] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 3, 2005.

[72] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 4, 2005.

[73] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 19, 2005.

[74] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 22, 2005.

[75] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 22, 2005.

[76] PA TV, January 28, 2005.

[77] The reference is to the poetess Al-Khansaa bint Omar, who became a Muslim during the time of the Prophet, and is considered the mother of all shahids.

[78] PA TV, March 11, 2005.

[79] PA TV, March 18, 2005. One should recall that as early as December 2004, one month after Yasser Arafat's death, preachers in Friday sermons in Gaza, which were attended by Abu Mazen, spoke in a positive way. For example, in a Friday sermon delivered on December 3, 2004, in the presence of then PA Chairman Abu Mazen, Sheikh Muhammad Gamal Abu Al-Hunud said: "...We must respect the human mind;... recognizing the 'other,' respecting his humanity, and being tolerant to him. Coercion is forbidden, because forcing conversion to any religion begets nothing but hypocrites. Islam despises hypocrisy, and despises hypocrites." See MEMRI TV, clip 396: http://memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/396.htm.

On February 18, 2005, another cleric delivering a Friday sermon at a Gaza mosque said: "The Prophet's greatness was manifested in his treatment of the People of the Book – the Jews and the Christians. He made a pact with them. He protected their trade, their money, their beliefs, and their security." (PA TV). See MEMRI TV, clip 563: http://memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/563.htm.

[80] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 14, 2005.

[81] Al-Hayat (London), May 19, 2005. Excerpts from Mudeiris' sermon can be viewed at:

http://memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/669.htm.

[82] Al-Hayat (London), March 8, 2005.

[83] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 16, 2005.

[84] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 3, 2005.

[85] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 17, 2005.

[86] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 18, 2005.