(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responded to the US Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech late Wednesday night, saying he is prepared to resume negotiations if Israel halts settlement construction and abides by signed agreements.
“The minute the Israeli government agrees to cease all settlement activities, including in and around occupied east Jerusalem, and agrees to implement the signed agreements on the basis of mutual reciprocity, the Palestinian leadership stands ready to resume permanent status negotiations on the basis of international law... under a specified time frame,” Saeb Erekat, the PLO Executive Committee secretary- general, told Wafa, the official PA news site, on behalf of the PA president.
Since the failure of the last round of US-sponsored peace talks in May 2014, Abbas has held that Israel must freeze settlements and release a number of Palestinian prisoners before talks resume.
Nonetheless, Abbas said in September that he agreed to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow without preconditions.
Abbas added that the Arab Peace Initiative and the French initiative are the frameworks through which peace can be achieved.
“President Abbas is fully convinced that a just, comprehensive and lasting peace can be reached on all core issues on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative, with specified terms of reference, which can guarantee to fully end the Israeli occupation and lead to the establishment of an independent State of Palestine with east Jerusalem as its capital, on the 1967 border, living in peace and security, side by side [with] the State of Israel, as well as resolving all core issues, including refugees and prisoners, on the basis of the relevant, legal international resolutions,” Erekat said, speaking for Abbas. “President Abbas will continue to cooperate closely with France, which plans to convene next month an international peace conference,” he added.
France plans to host 70 countries for an international peace conference on January 15.
Riyad al-Maliki, the PA foreign minister, made a more critical statement of Kerry’s speech, saying that the top US diplomat did not offer anything new, but rather summarized his past experiences and reiterated his positions, some of which the Palestinians cannot accept.
John Kerry lays out Mideast peace vision
“Kerry did not break new ground,” Maliki said. “It is not possible for us to work with the selective proposal to recognize a Jewish state, as it is also not feasible for us to deal with the proposal pertaining to Israel’s security arrangements and needs that come at the expense of Palestinian land and people,” Maliki said.
Kerry said that both sides will have to recognize the other, including Israel recognizing Palestine as a home for Palestinians, and Palestine recognizing Israel as a home for Jews.
The Palestinian leadership has consistently opposed recognizing the Jewish state, saying that it would deny the Palestinian historical narrative and the rights of Arab Israelis.
Mustafa Barghouti, a PLO Executive Committee member, applauded Kerry’s overall message, but, similar to Maliki, said the Palestinian leadership cannot accept Kerry’s parameters.
“All in all, I think that the speech was very impressive in making very clear the diagnosis of the situation and in making it very clear that Israel has one choice and no more, either a one-state or a twostate solution... but the concluding principles were not something we could agree with,” Barghouti said, objecting to Kerry’s parameters pertaining to recognition of a Jewish state, refugees and Jerusalem.
Hamas spokesman Abdulatif al-Kanou criticized Kerry’s speech, saying that it brought “nothing new to US policy” in the Middle East.
Kanou added that Kerry made unfair criticisms of Hamas.
“As the occupation [Israel] has the right to own a large military arsenal and buys warplanes, Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups also have the right to develop the needed abilities to confront the occupation,” Kanou said in response to Kerry’s remark that Hamas “continues to pursue an extremist agenda,” favoring rearmament over Gazans’ humanitarian needs.
Kerry’s speech came 23 days before the Obama administration vacates the White House and other US government institutions.