UN Security Council Resolution 2334 was not an anti-Israel decision, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday evening, speaking to some 200 Israeli activists, professors and former officials.
“UNSC Resolution 2334 was not against Israel; it was against settlements, no more, no less,” Abbas told the Israelis, who traveled from all over the country to meet with the PA president at the Mukata, the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah. “It did not say Israel is illegitimate; it said settlements are illegitimate.
Resolution 2334, which was passed on December 23, said that settlements “have no legal validity” and constitute an obstacle to peace.
While Palestinian officials have welcomed the resolution, characterizing it as “historic,” Israeli officials have rejected the resolution, calling it “shameful” and “scandalous.”
Abbas, who was in good spirits, using hand motions as he spoke, added that he and the Palestinian leadership vehemently oppose violence.
“We don’t believe in violence, terrorism, or extremism and we will fight all of [these phenomena] openly and secretly,” Abbas remarked emphatically. “We have no other choice but to live in peace.”
Since assuming the presidency of the PA in 2005, Abbas has consistently eschewed violence and strongly supported security cooperation between the IDF and PA security forces.
The PA security forces have foiled hundreds of attacks against Israelis over the past year and a half, according to PA intelligence chief Majid Faraj.
Leading the Israeli delegation, Uri Avnery, a former MK and peace activist, called on the Israeli and Palestinian sides to sit at the negotiating table to achieve a peace accord.
“Peace between Israelis and Palestinians will not come without cooperation.
We cannot achieve peace if the two sides are not sitting together,” Avnery, sitting alongside Abbas, said.
Avnery, who is 93 years old, also recalled the days when he visited Abbas and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in Tunisia.
“I met Abbas in Tunis; we have been friends for more than 35 years,” Avnery remarked, glancing at the PA president.
“Abu Ammar [Arafat] always told me ‘to sit and discuss with Abbas first and then come to me.’” Later in his speech, Abbas said that he would be willing to resume negotiations with Israel, if it implements a settlement freeze.
“Freeze settlements and let’s sit at the table. Nothing is impossible with good intentions,” Abbas stated, grabbing Avnery’s hand. “50 years of occupation, then what? Another 50 years? Why haven’t we reached peace? We want to reach peace when we are living, not when we are dead.”
For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will meet Abbas, but without preconditions such as a settlement freeze.
Abbas also stated that he is looking forward to the upcoming international peace conference in Paris.
“What is needed from the French initative? We want international legitimacy to create a basis for peace.” Abbas remarked.
“We want international legitimacy to create a basis for peace. I believe it can be done in one day, even one hour,” he said.
Abbas and the Palestinian leadership has vigorously lobbied for a peace conference to create a multilateral mechanism to oversee the peace process similar to that of the P5+1, which negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement.
At the conclusion of his speech, the 81-year-old Palestinian leader thanked the group of Israelis for coming, saying that their arrival in Ramallah sends an important message.
“You coming here today is sufficient for us to make peace now. What separates us? You have come to take part in peace,” Abbas stated to a round of applause, adding, “The truth is we didn’t need the UN resolution, it is enough for us to talk and we can get to peace. The only way is for us to live here, together, in this land in peace.”
Abbas has met with multiple groups of Israelis including government officials and civil society members over the past year.
During a recent Fatah leadership conference, Abbas dismissed criticism of his meetings with Israelis.
“We decided we wanted to communicate with everyone in Israel. We decided to open a dialogue,” Abbas said at the conference, explaining that “We don’t want to leave them subject to deception. We need to provide them with our side [of the issues].”
After his speech, Abbas quickly returned to his office, but came back minutes later to take pictures with his Israeli guests.