Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he is willing to renounce all future claims on Israel after a Palestinian state is established, though he stopped short of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
“We are ready to put an end to historic demands” once a Palestinian state is established on land outside Israel’s 1967 borders, Abbas said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 1 television late yesterday. Asked about Israeli demands that he explicitly recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Abbas said: “Enough with that. We recognize the state of Israel, and it is already a Jewish state.”
Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry said “the best way to move forward is not in statements to the press but to renew direct talks as soon as possible.” Palmor also said Abbas’s statement was not a new position.
Abbas has said he is willing to return to negotiations only if Israel halts all construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that he won’t renew a moratorium on settlement building unless the Palestinians show more flexibility, offering as one example a willingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Israel and the Palestinians agreed last month to try to reach an agreement on the framework for a comprehensive peace accord within a year. All the issues at the core of the conflict would be on the table, including the borders of a future Palestinian state, security arrangements for Israel and the right of Palestinian refugees to return.
Abbas’s comment “has symbolic significance,” said Mark Heller, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “However, it doesn’t really qualify what the conditions of a final agreement would be.”
Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City, said: “If Israel is going to put an end to its occupation of the Palestinian territories and there is a just solution to the refugee problem it would mean the end of the conflict.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in an interview yesterday in Ramallah that he was pressing ahead with a two-year plan to finish building government institutions to make the creation of an independent state “inevitable.”
“Palestine is not going to emerge in a vacuum but on the strength of the institutions of government,” Fayyad said. “People on both sides are beginning to see statehood translated and transformed from the realm of concept to the realm of reality. This is enormously powerful.”
Fayyad said his program is establishing a new reality that is likely to push forward “the prospects of the political process.”
The Palestinians reject Israel’s demand that they recognize it as the state of the Jewish people on the grounds it undermines the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Israel says such recognition is necessary to ensure the Palestinians don’t make additional claims once a peace treaty has been signed.
Abbas didn’t address the Palestinian right of return in his interview with Channel 1. He reiterated his call for Israel to halt all construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, saying the Palestinians aren’t asking for more than is being demanded by the international community.
About 500,000 Jews have moved to the West Bank and east Jerusalem since 1967. The United Nations says that settlements are illegal, and the International Committee of the Red Cross says they breach the Fourth Geneva Convention governing actions on occupied territory. U.S. President Barack Obama has said the settlements aren’t legitimate.
Israel says the settlements don’t fall under the convention because the territory wasn’t recognized as belonging to anyone before the 1967 Middle East war, in which Israel prevailed, and therefore isn’t occupied.
Abbas said that Netanyahu told him he cannot extend the 10- month settlement freeze which expired on Sept. 26 because of concerns that the governing Israeli coalition, which includes a majority of parties that support building in the West Bank, might collapse. “Governments are not more important than peace,” Abbas told Channel 1.
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