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Abbas' speech evokes Palestinian despair

A Palestinian youth pushes an Israeli soldier during a demonstration Friday against Israel’s separation barrier near Bethlehem. Many moderate Palestinians see no peace progress.

Associated Press

A Palestinian youth pushes an Israeli soldier during a demonstration Friday against Israel’s separation barrier near Bethlehem. Many moderate Palestinians see no peace progress.

JERUSALEM — By saying he wants to step down as president, Mahmoud Abbas has highlighted a deep Palestinian despair rooted in decades of failed peace initiatives and fruitless violence.

Neither strategy has yielded a Palestinian state, and Israeli settlements still encroach on lands that would make up their would-be nation. Facing a hawkish Israeli government and an Obama administration reluctant to put muscle behind its demands on Israel, many Palestinians say they see no hope at all.

"I am frustrated with so-called peace and the so-called two-state solution," said Rami Hassouna, a 34-year-old construction contractor in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "If all of this was 1 percent possible before, now I think it's impossible."

Moderate Palestinians are worried that Abbas, in saying he doesn't want another term in office, will only deepen frustrations and boost the militants who claim violence is the only option.

Some top Israelis also urged him to reconsider, but the widespread feeling on their side is that they offered Abbas sweeping concessions and got no response.

The political stalemate is raising the specter of new violence.

"I think that this position of President Abbas is ringing the alarm that things have been deteriorating in Palestine and in Palestinian-Israeli relations," said Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib.

On the day after Abbas' speech on Thursday, Palestinians debated whether their president was serious about not running in the Jan. 24 elections, or just trying to shake things up.

The Palestinian narrative stands in contrast to the widely held Israeli one. Israelis feel they have gotten little back for their efforts: They signed the 1993 Oslo peace accords, but the Palestinians persisted with terror attacks; Israel offered a state in 2000 but Palestinians staged a new uprising; and then Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and the Palestinians fired rockets from it.

Abbas' speech evokes Palestinian despair 11/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 6, 2009 11:33pm]

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