PA President Mahmoud Abbas praying 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s early November comments on
Israeli TV, on violence, borders and refugees, were unusual in their undisguised
The Palestinian leader made three very important points: that
as long as he is in office the Palestinians will not resort to force; that the
right of refugee return to Israel proper is not a practical option, by noting
that he himself has no intention of returning to live in his hometown, Safed;
and that, as far as he is concerned, Palestine is the West Bank and Gaza within
the confines of the 1967 boundaries, including East Jerusalem.
beyond those lines is Israel, “now and forever”.
Though unusual, these
positions are not radically different from statements made on occasion by Abbas
(Abu Mazen) even when speaking to Arab audiences. In Gaza, in late 2002, at the
height of the second intifada, Abbas criticized the use of force as a
Palestinian mistake that would make the attainment of independence that much
Thanks to Wikileaks, we now know that in the closed internal
Palestinian discussions during the negotiations with former Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert in 2008, Abbas explained to his colleagues that it would be unrealistic
to expect Israel to accept a return of millions of Palestinian refugees that
would dilute its Jewish character. There is, therefore, reason to believe that
Abbas’s recent statements are genuine representations of his moderation and a
full endorsement of the two-state solution as the end of conflict with Israel.
Such interlocutors have been few and far between on the Palestinian side and
Israel is unlikely to find such pragmatic Palestinian partners in the
future.For more in-depth reporting and insight from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World subscribe to The Jerusalem Report