Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election talk against the establishment of a Palestinian state was “harmful and bad,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday.
However, Abbas said that he was prepared to negotiate and deal with Netanyahu because he represents Israel.
In an interview with Al-Arab TV, Abbas said Israel stands to gain if it agrees to the Arab Peace Initiative.
“I have no problem negotiating with Netanyahu, because he represents the state of Israel,” he said. “My hand is always stretched out.
“We made great headway in the negotiations with [then prime minister Ehud] Olmert, in which we discussed everything, and suddenly he was distanced from the political arena [when he resigned in 2009].
“We say to the nation in Israel: Our hands are stretched out for coexistence between the two countries; do not chop off the hand that is stretched out in peace, because the alternatives do not help anyone. The alternatives are destructive,” Abbas said.
In the interview, he said that even the US had expressed reservations about Netanyahu’s statements against a Palestinian state.
“If you say you are opposed to the two-state solution, then what kind of solution do you want?” Abbas asked.
“Do you want racial discrimination or apartheid or a one-state solution? What exactly do you want?” Abbas said he did not know whether Netanyahu would change his position regarding a Palestinian state. But he stressed that the Palestinians would not change their position and would continue to demand a state alongside Israel.
“The Israeli people needs to know that such policies won’t bring stability and peace,” Abbas added. “We want peace and security for the Israeli people, the same as we want them for ourselves. Netanyahu’s policies won’t lead to security and peace.”
The Palestinian leadership was opposed to the one-state solution and continues to demand an independent Palestinian state, he said.
“We say, two states – the state of Palestine and the state of Israel. Period,” he said. “We won’t accept anything else.”
Abbas reiterated his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
“We have accepted and recognized Israel a long time ago,” he said. “If Netanyahu wants to change the status of Israel, he can go to the United Nations and ask for that. This is not our business.”
Solving the Palestinian issue would rid the region of all the terrorist groups that have popped up over the past few years, Abbas said. “The Israelis need to be aware that this could reach them at any time,” he said, referring to the terrorists.
Abbas accused Israel of trying to “kill” the Oslo Accords.
“They have started backtracking on the terms of the Oslo Accords,” he claimed. “Nothing has been left of the accords. That’s why we decided to revise the accords and other agreements with Israel. They have damaged the Oslo Accords.”
Israeli violations of the accords included IDF incursions into areas A and B in the West Bank and the withholding of tax revenues belonging to the Palestinians, Abbas said.
Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) said Abbas’s call for negotiations was “nothing short of chutzpah.”
“After he unilaterally violated the agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority by turning to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, he dares say his hand is outstretched in peace?” Ariel asked. “Israel should say clearly to Abbas that to return to the negotiating table, he must take back his violations. He must be made to understand that Israel will not seek an agreement while surrendering its values.”
In the interview, Abbas accused Hamas leaders of conducting negotiations with Israel over the establishment of a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.
He said that he planned to visit the Gaza Strip, but that Hamas did not allow him to do so.
“There is a dialogue and meetings between Hamas and Israel up to this day,” Abbas claimed, without elaborating.
He said that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was in favor of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines, while the movement’s representative in the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud Zahar, supports a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.
An Israeli government official responded by saying that if Abbas’s hand was outstretched in peace, “why was he holding Hamas’s hand with the other.” You can’t do both, the official said, adding that this was “a fundamental problem.”
“If Abbas wants to move the process forward, he has to understand that he has responsibilities,” he said. “He can’t avoid responsibilities, play lowest denomination politics and say it is all Israel’s fault.”