Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets Israeli delegation in Ramallah, May 17, 2016.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to end its “regional domination” during a press conference he held Wednesday in Brussels in advance of his scheduled address the next day before the European Parliament.
“If Israel seeks peace with its Arab neighbors it has to start by ending its hegemony in the region and to stop violating the rights of our people,” Abbas said. “Then we will be able to implement the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002,” he added.
The PA president spoke to reporters together with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini within hours after landing in Belgium.
His words were translated from Arabic into English by the European Union.
Abbas’ arrival coincided with the visit of President Reuven Rivlin, who addressed the European Parliament on Wednesday and is scheduled to meet with Mogherini on Thursday.
Their joint presence in Brussels has fueled speculation that an accidental or intentional meeting between them might occur.
The flurry of diplomatic activity in Brussels comes as the European Union is pushing, along with France, to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been frozen for more than two years.
At a brief press conference with Rivlin and European Parliament President Martin Schulz, an Israeli reporter asked about the possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian meeting.
“Is a meeting between President Rivlin and President Abbas about to happen here in Brussels today or tomorrow?” she asked.
Schulz’s response opened the door to the possibility of some kind of exchange between the two men.
“The diplomatic progress depends a little bit on the time-tables of both,” he said. “If they are both crossing the floors of the European Parliament, I think they will not run away.”
Rivlin added: “I assure you I will not run away.”
During her press conference with Abbas, Mogherini spoke of existing peace processes, including the French initiative and a much anticipated Quartet report that is expected to diagnose the reasons why past initiatives to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have failed.
The Quartet report is expected to be published in the coming days, Mogherini said, and would include recommendations to Israelis and Palestinians on how to refrain from steps that harmed the possibility of a two-state solution.
“The international community and Europe has a responsibility to create an international and regional framework to facilitate the two-state solution,” Mogherini said. She called for an end to settlement activity, the demolition of Palestinian homes, violence and incitement.
“We are extremely worried about the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East,” she said. “It’s extremely dangerous.”
Abbas said he supports both the French Initiative and the 2002 Arab Peace plan, which offers Israel normalized ties with Arab states in return for a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.
In the past he has rejected Israeli calls for direct talks and has preferred an international process with a set timetable. He spoke with Mogherini about the need to set such an end date for an Israeli withdrawal.
“We are committed to free our land and our people,” said Abbas. Israel, he charged, “is pushing the region into more bloodshed and extremism.”
“We are keen on a just peace that guarantees security to everyone, that brings an end to the Israeli occupation of land and makes it possible for our people to live in dignity and freedom on our land side by side with Israel,” Abbas said.
Rivlin also spoke of the importance of a two-state solution when he addressed the EU Parliament earlier in the day, noting that every prime minister since 1993 had called for such a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I do know that any political agreement brought before the Israeli Knesset by an elected government will be approved,” he said.
Rivlin spoke against the French Initiative which he said would only distance peace. What was needed, he said, was for both sides to take steps to create the conditions for the resolution of the conflict.
“It is no easy task for me to stand here before you today and say that at this time, a permanent agreement for peace between us and the Palestinians cannot be achieved,” Rivlin said.
But he added, he hoped that such a peace would be possible in the future.
“I believe in the capability of both these peoples to live with each other, for the simple reason that we have no other choice. If we desire life, we must, today, invest our utmost efforts in what can be achieved, not in that which cannot – for the sake of our future, and that of our children.”