>President says PA president proved in word and deed that he is a partner for peace, while Netanyahu’s office says Abbas rebuffed his offer to meet without preconditions, but the offer “still stands.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s plea on Channel 2 Friday for Israel to accept a two-state solution along the pre- 1967 lines was lauded by his counterpart, Shimon Peres, and rejected by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday night.
Peres praised Abbas’s courage, saying he had proved both in word and deed that Israel did have a genuine negotiating partner.
“Abu Mazen [Abbas] has condemned terror and has pledged that under his leadership there will not be a third intifada. He understands very well that the solution to the Palestinian refugee problem cannot be within Israeli territory, in order not to change the demographic character of Israel.
“But he has put out a hand to Israel to renew the peace process,” Peres said.
He continued that Abbas’s plea on TV was a matter of great significance, and that the desire for peace and a two-state solution also had a broad consensus behind it in Israel.
But the Prime Minister’s Office said that the only meaningful gesture Abbas could make would be to sit down and negotiate without preconditions.
In the past, Netanyahu has resisted all attempts by Abbas to pre-determine the outcome of such talks.
The prime minister has refused to accept a two-state solution on the pre-1967 lines. He has insisted that Jerusalem remain Israel’s united capital and that a final-status agreement should take into account settlement blocs.
Netanyahu has argued that the issue of borders should not be predetermined, and that this is one of the subjects to be negotiated.
In Paris on Wednesday, he issued a public call at a press conference for Abbas to renew the negotiations.
On Saturday night, Netanyahu’s office said, “The prime minister’s proposal to meet with Abu Mazen without any preconditions whatsoever still stands.
“In relation to what Abu Mazen said [on Channel 2], there is no connection between his words and his deeds.
“Abu Mazen refuses for four years now to renew the negotiations with Israel, and this despite a whole series of steps that Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken to allow for the resumption of talks, including the unprecedented settlement freeze [of housing starts for 10 months that ended in September 2010] in Judea and Samaria,” it said.
The office also said that Abbas had refused to discuss necessary security arrangements with Israel to protect Israeli citizens.
On Friday night, Abbas said that his demands, such as a freeze on settlement building and Jewish construction in east Jerusalem, was not a precondition.
“When we talk about the settlements, the construction is illegal, it’s not a precondition,” he said.
“We have 15 Security Council decisions that say this. In spite of this, what I am saying is, stop the building until we get to an understanding.
But Netanyahu refuses this,” Abbas said.
He said that he had given Netanyahu two proposals on borders and security that he had negotiated with then-prime minister Ehud Olmert, but Netanyahu would not look at them.
Channel 2 reporter Udi Segal, who conducted Friday’s interview, countered this statement by asking: “If a prime minister from Israel would put to you on this table, the proposal that Olmert gave you, would you sign it today?” Abbas responded by explaining that an agreement had not been reached with Olmert. But, he said, if a document was placed in front of him that contained the understanding reached between him and Olmert, then “I’m willing to sit and negotiate tomorrow.”
Segal asked, “But you want to start the negotiation from that point, or this is the end?” Abbas responded, “No, from that point.”
Segal said, “So everything he gave you is okay, but now you want more?” Abbas answered, “We want to complete our negotiations, to bridge the gap on the issues on which we did not have an understanding. Concerning security there was full understanding, about the territories, we exchanged [ideas] and maps, but we did not conclude it,” he said.
Abbas said that was needed to restart the negotiations was for Netanyahu to accept a two-state solution on the ’67 lines.
“Can he do it now? And tomorrow I will go and sit with him,” Abbas said.
He explained that the PA was going to the United Nations this month to ask to upgrade its status to that of a non-member state.
“It does not mean that we are looking or seeking an independent Palestinian state, because we will be under occupation,” Abbas said.
Segal charged that the move was an attempt to unilaterally seek statehood.
Abbas countered, “If we are talking about unilateralism, I think settlement activity is unilateral. This is an occupied territory, you do not have a right to send any of your citizens to live there.”
Segal countered that there was a report by former Supreme Court justice Edmund Levy that said the West Bank was not occupied territory.
“It is occupied territories. You can not define things as you like,” Abbas said.
Segal asked him if there was a possibility that a third intifada would break out.
Abbas answered, “No. As long as I am here in this office, there will be no third armed intifada. Never. We do not want to use force. We do not want to use terror.”
He also said there was no justification for Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel.
Segal asked him if he wanted to go to Safed, the city in the Galilee where he was born.
“Of course, I want to see it. It’s my right to see it, but not to live there,” Abbas said.
Segal asked, “Is it [Safed] Palestine for you?” Abbas answered. “Palestine, now, for me is ’67 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever. This is Palestine for me. I am refuge, but I am living in Ramallah. I believe that the West Bank and Gaza are Palestine and the other part is Israel.”
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