Israeli Gov't Mum on Palestinian PM's 'Right to Resist' Comments

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The Israeli government refused to respond on Monday to reports that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad said that Palestinians have a "legitimate right" to resist, a phrase often used as a euphemism for terrorism.

The U.S.-educated Fayyad is well respected and considered to be a moderate among Palestinians by the West.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas chose Fayyad, who was the P.A. finance minister, to head a temporary or interim government in the West Bank after the violent Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip last month.

Fayyad's government published its platform last week, which omitted the phrases "armed struggle" and "resistance" as a right against what they consider to be the Israeli occupation.

Hamas and other armed groups heavily criticized the platform for the omissions, and one group called Fayyad a traitor and threatened to kill him. But on Monday, Fayyad said that the Palestinians do have a right to resist, though he said that doesn't always mean with violence.

"We are certainly an occupied people, and resistance is a legitimate right for the Palestinian people as an occupied people," Fayyad told reporters in Cairo, wire reports said.

But Fayyad said that resistance did not always mean an armed struggle. "What is the essence of resistance fundamentally, especially in light of the nature of the existing occupation? Does it not begin by exerting every possible effort to ... reinforce the steadfastness of the Palestinian citizen on his land? This is the program of the government."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office refused on Monday to comment on Fayyad's remarks.

The U.S. and Israeli government are backing Abbas, his Fatah faction and Fayyad and his government as a moderate force that they are hoping will be able to bring order to the West Bank -- a process that could lead to the eventual resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Officials in Olmert's office last week were calling Abbas a partner for peace and said that Olmert was ready to discuss "an agreement of principles" that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.

Critics say that they do not believe Abbas will be able to bring order to the West Bank. Some argue that it has been a mistake for Israel to try to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by giving away land, as was proved from the recent Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip following the Israeli withdrawal two years ago.

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