The Palestinians will continue to demand the right of return for millions of
refugees to their original homes inside Israel even after the UN recognizes a
Palestinian state along the June 4, 1967, lines, Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday.
Responding to legal experts’ claims that a
Palestinian state could affect the status of the PLO as the “sole legitimate
representative” of the Palestinians, Abbas told the Jordanian newspaper
: “The PLO represents all the Palestinians, not only those in the
Palestinian territories and whose number is estimated at 4 million. The PLO
represents all 8 million Palestinians in the world.”
Israeli efforts move to influencing wording of PA state bid
Opinion: There's no right of return
He said that the PLO
would continue to function until all Palestinian issues were resolved, including
the case of the refugees. The PA, he added, is part of the PLO and not a
Abbas claimed that there were 5 million
“This case must be placed at the negotiating table and the
difference between us and the Israelis is they don’t want to talk about this
issue,” he said.
“We have told them that this issue must be discussed on
the basis of international legitimacy.”
A British expert in international
law has warned that millions of Palestinian refugees living outside the West
Bank and the Gaza Strip could lose their representation at the UN if the PA
succeeds in winning recognition of a state next month.
A seven-page legal
opinion prepared by Guy Goodwin- Gill, a professor of international law at
Oxford, concluded that “the interests of the Palestinian people are at risk of
prejudice and fragmentation” and the refugees in the diaspora risk losing “their
entitlement to equal representation... their ability to vocalize their views, to
participate in matters of national governance, including the formation and
political identity of the state, and to exercise the right of
The PLO has had observer status at the UN since
1974. Goodwin-Gill suggested that this status would be transferred to the
state of Palestine in September.
Abbas told the newspaper that he decided
to launch the statehood initiative after the peace talks with Israel reached a
deadlock. He said that the PA would return to the negotiating table only if
Israel halted construction in the settlements and accepted the 1967 lines as the
basis for a two-state solution.
Abbas said that 122 countries have voiced
support for the statehood bid. He expected the number to rise to 128 by the time
the Palestinians go to the UN in late September.
Asked whether the PA leadership has come under
pressure from the US administration to abandon the statehood plan, Abbas
replied: “Yes, there’s a stick, but without a carrot. Indeed, we are under
pressure not to go [to the UN]. The pressure is also on other countries. But in
the end we want to follow the higher interest of the Palestinians.
we don’t want a clash with America, because we’re not qualified for such a
He pointed out that Congress has threatened to cut off
aid to the Palestinians if they insist on going to the UN Security Council or
Abbas noted that the US was giving the Palestinians
more than $570 million in annual aid while the Arab countries were failing to
fulfill their financial pledges.
Acknowledging that the situation on the
ground would not change for the Palestinians when and if a Palestinian state is
declared, the PA president explained: “First, there will be a state under
occupation. The Israelis these days deal with us on the basis that we are not a
state and that the Palestinian lands are disputed territories. But when the
recognition of our state on the 1967 borders happens, we will become a state
under occupation, and then we would be able to go to the UN [with demands]. We
will remain under occupation, but our legal status will change.”
said he was strongly opposed to an armed intifada against Israel.
long as I’m the president of the Palestinian Authority, I won’t agree to an
armed intifada,” he said. “I believe there’s a semi-consensus on the need for
calm. All the Palestinian factions know what the repercussions of armed action
would be. However, I support peaceful demonstrations and popular activities in
every place in Palestine.”