Abbas: Land swap principle reached

Netanyahu says Mitchell has yet to approach J'lem with proposal.

May 23, 2010 04:30
3 minute read.
Mahmoud Abbas

Abbas half smile profile 311. (photo credit: AP)


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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that the Palestinians and Israel have agreed on the principle of a land swap, but denied that the two sides had reached any further agreement in this regard.

The issue of the ratio of land Israel would give to the Palestinians in exchange for keeping settlement blocs has long been an issue of dispute, with the Palestinians demanding that the ratio be 1:1, and Israel offering less.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, however, stressed on Sunday that no agreement had been reached on the issue of land swaps, telling Likud ministers that US Middle East envoy George Mitchell had yet to approach the Israeli government with such a proposal from the Palestinian side.

‘Extent of land exchange in dispute’

Israeli officials, however, refused to discuss the content of what is being talked about with the Palestinians.

“Any public discussion of the content will make progress much more difficult, and we want to make progress,” one official said.

Abbas, speaking to reporters in Ramallah while participating in a campaign to boycott goods manufactured in West Bank settlements, said that the two sessions of indirect talks that took place in the past week have not made any progress yet.

He said that in the first session, the two sides discussed, via US special envoy George Mitchell, the issues of security and borders of the future Palestinian state.

In the second session, Mitchell presented the Palestinians with “verbal, professional and legal questions,” Abbas said, refusing to elaborate.

He added that the Palestinians would give their replies to the questions after consulting with Arab countries because the PA had agreed to the resumption of the indirect talks after getting a green light from the Arab League.

“Until now, we can’t say that there has or hasn’t been any progress [in the talks],” Abbas added. “But we hope that matters will move in the right direction, and that we will reach agreement on the borders and security within the next four months.”

'We are not boycotting Israel, we are boycotting settlements'

Referring to the PA’s campaign to boycott settlement products, Abbas said that the measure was not directed at Israel, but only against the settlements.

“We’re not boycotting Israel because we have relations with it and we import from them,” he said. “We are only boycotting the settlements because we shouldn’t, under any circumstances, be consuming goods that were produced in settlements built on our lands.”

Abbas said that the international community, specifically the Europeans, supported the anti-settlement campaign “because it is just and correct.”

“They have all determined that the settlements are illegal,” he explained. “So we are fighting against something that’s illegal. There’s nothing illegal about what we are doing, and this should not be seen as incitement.”

An Israeli official, responding to Abbas’s backing of the boycott, said it would harm the Palestinians more than Israel.

“There are some 25,000 Palestinians working in the settlements,” the official said, “and if you tell them they have to stop work tomorrow, and they don’t have a substitute for that income, this is going to cause problems for them.”

Herb Keinon contributed to this report

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