Monday, November 05, 2012

Abbas tells all

In a candid interview with Israeli TV Channel 2 conducted in English, Pres. Abbas of the Palestine Authority essentially recognized Israel and appeared to give up the "right of return."  He said that he was born in Tzvat (Safed) and he would like to visit there, but he recognizes that he cannot return to live there since it is now within Israel, instead he said he lives in Ramallah.  He also said that during his watch there will be no third armed intifada (uprising against Israel) and he will not use violence to resolve the issues between the Palestinians and Israel, but only diplomatic and peaceful means.  He confirmed that as far as he is concerned Palestine now means the West Bank and Gaza and no more.
But, he reitereated his preconditions to restarting negotiations with the Goverment of Israel, namely that there must be a building moratorium on the West Bank, that the pre-1967 lines become the border of Palestine and that the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees must be resolved.   He claimed that these were not in fact pre-conditions, a claim that PM Netanyahu's office refuted.  Abbas was also criticized for saying these things by Pres. Haniyah of Hamas in Gaza, who said that the Israeli "occupation" could only be destroyed with violence and that Abbas was on "dangerous ground" for admitting that Israel now occupies a large part of Palestine.  In fact, Hamas organized a large demonstration tonite against Abbas, in which his image was burnt.  Abbas hastened to backtrack, on Arabic TV he said that he still supported the "right of return" of all Arab "refugees."  He also wrote a note to Pres. Morsi of Egypt and gave an interview to Egyptian TV assuring that the views expressed in the interview were his own personal opinions and had nothing to do with the formal positions of the PA, which were unchanged.  Nevertheless, Abbas may have signed his own death warrant by this interview, and has been criticized by many Palestinians as a "Zionist agent."
On the Israeli side there were several reactions.  PM Netanyahu issued a statement reiterating that he is prepared to meet with Abbas and negotiate anytime, anywhere, without pre-conditions.  Pres. Peres said that Abbas is a moderate and reasonable partner for Israel.  Shelli Yachimovich, Head of the Labor Party, praised Abbas and blamed the stalemate in peace negotiations on Netanyahu.  FM Lieberman accused Abbas of interfering in the Israeli electoral process, by showing a false moderation designed to help the left, that he immediately renounced in Arabic.  So while things appear to improve in small steps, this is largely a PR stunt and any real change in the situation is an illusion. 


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