The Palestinian Authority will only be replaced by a Palestinian state, and “no one should dream that it will collapse,” President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday.
In a televised speech from his office in Bethlehem, where he arrived to attend Christmas celebrations of Orthodox Christians, Abbas said that the PA would be followed by a Palestinian state. “We won’t accept any other scenarios,” he said, referring to reports that the Israeli government had recently discussed various scenarios that could emerge in the aftermath of the collapse of the PA.
“The Palestinian Authority exists and it is here,” Abbas stressed. “It will be followed by a Palestinian state. The Palestinian Authority is one of our achievements and we won’t give it up.”
Over the past few years, Abbas and other senior Palestinian officials had threatened to dissolve the PA and “hand the keys back to Israel.”
Abbas’s speech on Wednesday was preceded by rumors that he is planning to resign. On Saturday, unconfirmed reports claimed that Abbas, 80, had suffered a stroke and was being treated in a Jordanian hospital. Abbas’s office strongly denied the reports.
In his speech, which did not carry any surprises, Abbas said that he wants a solution for the Palestinian issue. “It is inconceivable that the Palestinian cause remain unsolved,” he said. “We have seen solutions in for Iran, Libya and Syria although our cause is older.
The situation is complicated and difficult and solutions might not come today or tomorrow. But we must hold on to our achievements and we won’t backtrack on our full rights.”
The Palestinians continue to extend their hand for peace and peaceful negotiations in order to achieve peace and the two-state solution, he said. “We shall remain on our land, and Israel is not permitted to establish an apartheid state or a state with two systems.”
The Palestinians will continue to demand the eviction of all settlers from the West Bank, he said. “This is our land and all the settlers must leave and they will leave as was the case in the Gaza Strip,” Abbas added.
He indirectly criticized the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem for allegedly “diverting” church property to Israel. “These are holy lands and we won’t allow anyone to transfer them to anyone else,” he said. “This land belongs to us and our children and grandchildren. It will remain ours forever.”
Abbas’s remarks coincided with a campaign that is being waged by Orthodox Christians in Jerusalem and Bethlehem against Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, who has been accused of facilitating the sale of church property to Israel. Leaders of the Orthodox Christian community on Wednesday boycotted Theophilos as he arrived in Bethlehem to lead Christmas Eve celebrations.
Abbas called for an international conference to solve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and cautioned against the continuation of violence and terrorism in the region. He warned against turning the conflict into a religious one and urged Israel to keep a distance from Al-Aksa Mosque.
Palestinians are carrying out “peaceful” protests while Israel is resorting to violence, he said.
“All our demonstrations are peaceful,” Abbas said. “But who are the aggressors? Our youths are throwing stones while they are opening fire. Our protests are peaceful and they will remain so.”