International peace brokers have tried to paint Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as the moderate antithesis of his predecessor Yasser Arafat. But at the weekend Abbas made clear during a convention for the Fatah party both he and Arafat founded that he continues to cling to the violent ideals of his former mentor and friend.
Fatah is holding its first party convention in years in an effort to get the movement back on track and overcome years of widespread corruption and perceived weakness that have resulted in huge gains for the rival Hamas faction.
After being unanimously re-elected as party leader, Abbas told those gathered in Bethlehem that while he walks the path of the international peace process, he "maintains the right to launch an armed resistance," local-speak for terrorism, which he claims enjoys the backing of international law.
World leaders stopped meeting with Arafat toward the end of his life as the ailing Palestinian leader dropped all pretenses of negotiating with Israel in good faith. After Arafat's death, Abbas was presented and hailed as a leader who had truly abandoned the very idea of achieving political goals through violence, especially violence aimed at innocent civilians.
But Abbas and some of his most senior advisors and colleagues have very pointedly acknowledged of late that they continue to walk in the footsteps of Arafat.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday called the rhetoric coming out of the Fatah convention "grave and unacceptable," but insisted that concluding a comprehensive land-for-peace deal with Abbas' regime remains the only way forward for the region.