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Israel concerned over Abbas' resignation

Israel concerned over Abbas' resignation
Palestinians chant in support of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after he announced his decision not to seek reelection in the January elections, in Ramallah, West Bank, November 5, 2009. President Abbas cited disappointment with the US policy on Israeli settlements as one of the factors that led to his decision. UPI/Debbie Hill | License Photo

JERUSALEM, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- A day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced his resignation, Israeli officials expressed concern for the peace process, officials said.

After Abbas' broadcast announcement from Ramallah, West Bank, Thursday evening, Israeli President Shimon Peres urged the Palestinian leader to remain. Peres said Abbas' departure would deprive the Palestinian people of an independent state, Haaretz said.

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The newspaper said Peres told Abbas if he leaves, "the situation in the region would deteriorate. Stay for the Palestinian people's sake."

While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu refrained from publicly commenting on the situation, behind closed doors he reportedly told officials it was in Israel's interest to have a strong Abbas who could move negotiations forward, the paper said.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he hopes Abbas' decision will not damage attempts to resume peace negotiations, the paper said.

Aides close to Abbas said he was surprised and disappointed with the U.S. administration's position concerning Israel and its position on settlement construction, the paper said.

While Abbas blamed Israel for his decision in the speech, the Palestinian president really blamed U.S. President Barack Obama for the situation, not Israel, the paper said.

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Yedioth Aharonoth, the first newspaper to predict Abbas would step down, Friday listed a number of candidates who could take over for him.

Candidates include former Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, currently serving four life sentences in an Israeli jail for his role in terror attacks. The list also includes former intelligence head and key Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan; Abu Maher Ghanem, a veteran member of Fatah central committee who opposed the Oslo Accords; Nasser Kidweh, a former Palestinian representative at the United Nations; former West Bank intelligence chief Jibril Rajoub; and Nabil Shaath, a former Palestinian negotiator in talks with Israel, the paper said.

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