'Making peace is more important than everything else'

PA president Abbas speaks at rally marking Arafat's death; private screening of film about Arafat raided by Hamas, journalists detained.

November 11, 2010 18:08
3 minute read.
'Making peace is more important than everything else'

Arafat. (photo credit: AP)


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The Palestinian position remains unchanged - a Palestinian state free of settlements with Jerusalem as its capital and the right of refugees to return to their homeland, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas declared Thursday.

Abbas, who was speaking to supporters during a rally in Ramallah marking the sixth anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, also repeated his opposition to return to the negotiating table with Israel as long as construction continued in the settlements.

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Abbas added that he wouldn't recognize Israel as a Jewish state out of fear that such a move would harm the status of Israel's Arab minority and deprive the refugees of the right to return to their former homes.

Thousands of Palestinians from all over the West Bank attended the major rally in Abbas's presidential Mukata compound.

He said that since 1988 the Palestinians haven't relinquished any of their main demands. He also reached out to the Israeli people, declaring: "Making peace is more important than everything else." In his speech, Abbas pledged to continue in Arafat's footsteps until the Palestinians achieve an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, the refugees return to their homes and lands and all prisoners are released from Israeli jails.

"There will be no negotiations with settlements," Abbas announced. "The Arab city of Jerusalem, including the holy sites, is an integral part of the 1967 occupied territories. Everybody knows that Jerusalem was occupied in 1967 and that any solution that does not include Jerusalem is not a solution." He said that the issue of the refugees must be solved on the basis of UN resolutions and the Arab peace initiative of 2002.

Addressing Israel, Abbas said: "Making peace is more important than settlements. Comprehensive and just peace is more precious than everything else - more precious than the government coalition and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman and narrow interests. Our children and your children must taste coexistence, stability, security and mutual respect before it's too late."

Nasser al-Qidweh, a relative of Arafat, addressed the crowd on behalf of the former PA leader's family. Al-Qidweh called on Palestinians to step up the struggle against settlements, which he termed a "big crime" that destroys any chance of achieving a two-state solution.

He blamed Israel once again for the death of Arafat and demanded an inquiry into the case. He said that the PA was continuing to work toward obtaining clear-cut evidence regarding Israel's alleged involvement in the "assassination by poison of martyr Arafat." Al-Qidweh said that the Palestinians were convinced from the beginning that Israel was behind the "assassination" of Arafat. "But we want clear evidence and we will get it," he stressed.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas banned Fatah supporters from holding public rallies to commemorate Arafat.

In Rafah, Hamas policemen raided the offices of Fatah legislator Ashraf Jumaa and arrested scores of activists who had been invited to watch a film about Arafat.

Eyewitnesses said Hamas detained a number of journalists in Rafah during an "unlicensed" memorial event for Arafat.

The Foreign Press Association issued a statement strongly condemning Hamas for targeting journalists. It said that Hamas security authorities detained television crews and ordered them to turn over news footage.

"The total ban by the authorities on all stills photographers wanting to cover the same event is unacceptable," the association said. "This is the latest in what seems to be a systematic campaign by Hamas to harass and intimidate journalists. Our members are professional journalists working for respected global news organizations."

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