Mahmoud Abbas was quoted as saying he might support Palestinian armed “struggle” against Israel in the future.
“At this time I am against armed struggle because we cannot achieve it,” the Palestinian Authority president said in an interview with the Jordanian newspaper Ad-Dustour published Thursday, but added that “things might be different in the coming stages.”
Israel and Western powers have long praised Abbas for renouncing terrorist and guerrilla attacks as part of the Palestinian national cause. His comments in the newspaper appeared to run counter to that image.
In the interview, Abbas said that he had the “honor” of being the first member of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah to fire a gun at Israelis, in 1965.
He further said that his faction “taught many in the region and world about resistance – how and when it is useful, when it is not useful.” Palestinians generally use the terms “struggle” and “resistance” for any type of attack against Israelis, whether they are soldiers or civilians.
Israeli officials had no immediate comment.
Some commentators have speculated that Abbas, who relaunched peace talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last November, is under pressure to prove his “fighting credentials” in the face of fierce domestic challenges by the rival Hamas Islamists who control Gaza.