Mahmoud Abbas on Channel 2.
(photo credit: Screenshot)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas' officials responded on Saturday to accusations by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh that the president had given up the right of return during an interview with Channel 2.
Political adviser Nimr Hammad told official PA news agency WAFA that Abbas was referring to his project to establish a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.
"What was said is what is going to happen when the state of Palestine is established alongside Israel, and therefore the president never mentioned the word giving up the right of return," he told WAFA.
The controversy arose after Abbas was asked during the interview
if he would like to return to his birth town of Safed.
Abbas responded: "Palestine now for me is the '67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital...I believe the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts are Israel."
Haniyeh immediately responded in Gaza after Friday prayers, retorting: "Abbas doesn’t have the right to surrender a Palestinian, Arabic and Islamic state which is still under Israeli occupation."
"No one has the right to surrender one span of Palestinian land and the right of return to our homes."
His comments also drew a swift condemnation from Hamas, which stated that "No Palestinian would accept ceding the right of our people to return to homes, villages and towns from which they were displaced."
"If Abu Mazen (Abbas) does not want Safed, Safed would be honored not to host people like him," the Hamas statement added.
Abbas also rejected violence in the PA-ruled West Bank, saying that under no circumstances will the Palestinians employ "weapons or violence."
"As long as I am sitting here, in this position, there will not be a third Intifada," Abbas said, adding that Palestinians will work towards achieving statehood through "diplomatic and peaceful means" only.
The PA chairman also denied reports that PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was quitting, saying that "Fayyad sat in my office in Ramallah just yesterday and made it clear that he has no intention of resigning."
The televised remarks also appeared aimed at influencing Israelis ahead of their January 22 legislative election.