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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Abbas Wins Landslide Victory

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- A landslide victory by Mahmoud Abbas in Palestinian elections to choose a successor to Yasser Arafat raised hopes Monday for reviving talks with Israel after years of bloodshed.

"A moderate man was elected, an intelligent man, an experienced man. Let's give him a chance," veteran Israeli peacemaker Shimon Peres told Israeli Army Radio.

"There is a new legitimate Palestinian leadership whose leaders definitely are against terror and war," Peres said.

But any optimism for a new era of diplomacy will still be vulnerable to militants defying Abbas' calls to end armed struggle. And neither Palestinians nor Israelis have shown signs of compromise on the fundamental issues behind decades of conflict.

In another significant shift in the Middle East equation, a new Israeli government led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but with Peres' center-left Labor Party a main partner, was expected to take office later in the day.

The change will restore Sharon's parliamentary majority for the first time in six months, and will allow him to pursue a Gaza pullout plan -- opposed by hard-liners -- that will uproot Jewish settlers for the first time from some of the land where Palestinians want to establish a state.

Abbas, 69, claimed victory Sunday after exit polls showed he had won 65 percent of the vote in the presidential election in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. The margin was at the top end of expectations.

Turnout looked healthy despite a boycott call by Islamic militants, strengthening Abbas' mandate for change after Arafat's death at the age of 75 on Nov. 11.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who led an international monitoring team, said Abbas won "a remarkably wonderful victory." Final results were expected late Monday.

Abbas has promised to seek peace with Israel, to battle widespread corruption and to revive the crumbling Palestinian Authority, reversing the legacy of four years of debilitating violence and Arafat's chaotic rule.

"Victory is beautiful, but it will be more beautiful to fulfill the pledges," said Abbas, the candidate of the dominant Fatah movement. "The smallest jihad is over and the biggest jihad is ahead."

Israeli officials have said that Sharon, who accused Arafat of fomenting violence and shunned him for years, will seek a meeting with Abbas within days. But Abbas aides said he wanted assurances that it would be more than a photo opportunity.

Israel, battling a four-year-long Palestinian uprising, sees Abbas as a man to do business with. But it has criticized his intention to co-opt rather than confront militants and insists on an end to Palestinian attacks before beginning talks on a Palestinian state.