Arafat's top deputy says armed uprising has failed Palestinians

Thursday, November 28, 2002

JERUSALEM -- Yasser Arafat's top deputy said the armed uprising against Israel has been a disaster for the Palestinians and must be stopped, declaring it has led to the "complete destruction of everything we built."

The blunt comments by Mahmoud Abbas, one of several potential successors to the politically weakened Arafat, are the harshest criticisms a senior Palestinian figure has leveled at militants since violence erupted in September 2000.

The remarks come at a time when extremists are pressing ahead with bombings and shootings, while ordinary Palestinians are increasingly split on whether the uprising is moving them closer to -- or driving them further from -- Palestinian statehood. The pointed statements were seen as a milestone in opening a public debate Palestinians have previously conducted only in private.

"Many people diverted the uprising from its natural path and embarked on a path we can't handle, with the use of weapons ... such as mortars, grenades and shooting from houses and populated areas," Abbas said in a closed-door meeting with activists of Arafat's Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip on Oct. 24.

"If we do a calculation of the gains and losses ... we will see that without any doubt is that what we lost was big and what we gained was small," he said.

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