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Monday, October 17, 2005
UPDATE: PLO LEADERSHIP BELATEDLY CRITICIZES SHOOTING ATTACKS BUT BLAMES ISRAEL

PLO LEADERSHIP BELATEDLY HEDGES BETS, ISSUES STATEMENTS CRITICIZING SHOOTING
ATTACKS BUT BLAMES ISRAEL

By Michael Widlanski

JERUSALEM, OCT. 17, 2005 -- Several Palestinian officials and media
outlets late last night and this morning (Monday) distributed vague
criticisms of yesterday's Palestinian terror attacks in the West Bank,
saying the shootings hurt Palestinian interests, after Israel closed down
roads in the area.

But the PLO statement laid the blame on Israel for the murder Sunday of
two Israeli women and one 15-year-old boy, even though PLO media sources
themselves declared the attacks were committed by the Fatah movement of
PLO chairman and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

"A spokesman for the Palestinian leadership called for an end to the
Israeli policy or assassinations [of suspected or confirmed terrorists]
which only leads to the kinds of reactions we saw yesterday in Bethlehem
[i.e. the fatal Palestinian attack in which seven other people were
wounded]," according to Voice of Palestine Radio.

But the statement was significant because it mentioned-albeit in
passing-that "the attack on the settlers' car was an act of terror."

In fact, the three Israelis were murdered while standing at a bus stop
near Bethlehem, and another six wounded, while a seventh Israeli was
wounded in a drive-by Palestinian shooting attack near Nablus, in the
northern part of the West Bank

This kind of condemnation of an attack on Israeli settlers, though
belated and though issued in a vague anonymous statement that was not
immediately released by the Palestinian news agency in Arabic, is still
highly unusual.

Although the condemnation of the Palestinian shooting attack was
sandwiched among several long condemnations of Israeli policies-which were
longer and much more heated than the criticism of the attack on the
Israelis-the statement was still a significant departure from past policy.

It is highly unlikely that such a comment could have been made without
the approval of PLO leader Abbas, who is traveling to Jordan and the
United States, but who has apparently made no personal public comments on
the attacks.
Dr. Abbas and the rest of the PLO leadership have usually treated
attacks on settlers and soldiers as legitimate "resistance" in comments made
to the Palestinian public, although former PLO leader Arafat also
condemned an attack three years ago
on a school bus of "settler" children in Gaza that left three children
without legs.
====
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. He has
also served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in
1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public
Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem.

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