Official Palestinian Authority (PA) media stressed again Saturday and Sunday that the PA stood behind the message of PA Foreign Minister Nasser Al-Qudwa that the regime of Mahmoud Abbas, the successor to Yasser Arafat, would not even try to disarm Palestinian gunmen for as long as “occupation” lasts.

“Deputy Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rebuked the Palestinian Authority for refusing to seize the weapons of the Palestinian resistance,” asserted Palestinian television Sunday [PBC 3-PM] in remarks that were re-stated in other media controlled by the regime of Dr. Abbas.

Foreign Minister Dr. Nasser Al-Qudwa had asserted yesterday that the Palestinian people was in a situation of defending itself, and the disarming of Palestinian organizations was not in the offing,” declared the PBC anchorwoman, restating Al-Qudwa’s original television interview.

Israeli reporters and Israeli politicians reacted with surprise and anger Sunday after Dr. Al-Qudwa, the nephew of the late Arafat, told Palestinian state television Friday night that the PA would not try to disarm Hamas, Jihad or Fatah gunmen until Israel leaves “all Palestinian lands,” using a formula regularly employed by PA officials.

Voice of Palestine radio reiterated Al-Qudwa’s message again late Sunday afternoon in response to Deputy Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s angry and surprised response that Al-Qudwa’s position was “a ticking bomb” which Israel could not accept. Olmert said Israel would have to disarm the Palestinians, if not the PA.

“Dr. Al-Qudwa asserted that our people have the right to bear arms in resistance for as long the occupation continues,” V.O.P. reported in its 4 p.m. broadcast Sunday (June 12), but this was hardly the first time that senior PA officials have made similar remarks that were generally ignored by the Israeli media and the Western press.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has told Arab newspapers, Palestinian television and radio several times, since his selection to succeed Arafat, that he was against disarming Palestinian militia members.

There have been numerous similar comments from top aides of Dr. Abbas-Cabinet Secretary Ahmad Abdel-Rahman, Presidential Secretary Taeb Abdel-Rahim and even Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Shaath, who made clear that they favored disarming Palestinians using weapons against other Palestinians but not against Israel.

“There is no such thing as a Palestinian-Palestinian conflict, but it is important to enforce the law against anyone who has violated the law and broken the cooling off period (tahdiyya).”

“It is not acceptable to play with the law and to threaten national unity and national security.”

Asked about the sovereignty of law, Dr. Sha’ath supported it, but he added, “we distinguish between the rifle of the soldier and the rifle the killer, and we distinguish between the rifle of the resister and the rifle of the one who threatens people’s rights….We want the cooling-off to succeed. We do not want to give Israel excuses, and as you know they love excuses. (PBC Television May 2, 2005-7:15 a.m.)

What prompted the angry and surprised response of Minister Olmert was the fact that Al-Qudwa’s comments [which came on PBC television Friday night June 10 and were repeated on V.O.P. radio and in at least one of the Palestinian newspapers on Saturday June 11] were cited by Voice of Israel on June 12, embarrassing Israeli officials who have contended that Abbas wants to disarm terrorists.

But the tone and content of Al-Qudwa’s remarks and Abbas policies are hardly a secret, as any one who glances at Palestinian newspapers knows.


“We will not slide down the path to civil war,” Al-Quds quoted Abbas in its lead front page story on May 14, where Abbas explained that he would not seize or even try to seize Hamas weapons. There was almost identical coverage in Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, a Fatah-run newspaper that is loyal to Abbas, head of the Fatah Party.

Report compiled by Michael Widlanski Associates.
Commissioned by the Center for Near East Policy Research.
[Permission to quote or reprint from article conditional on citing Michael Widlanski or Michael Widlanski Associates.]
Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post.