Abbas: New Palestinian government will say yes to Israel, no to violence

PA leader repeats demands for prisoner release, settlement building freeze.

PA president Mahmoud Abbas (center) attends a meeting of the PLO Central Council in Ramallah yesterday.  (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
PA president Mahmoud Abbas (center) attends a meeting of the PLO Central Council in Ramallah yesterday.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that the Palestinian unity government with Hamas would recognize Israel and renounce violence.
“The government reports to me and follows my policies,” Abbas said during a meeting of the PLO Central Council in Ramallah. “I recognize Israel and so will the government. I renounce violence and terrorism, and I recognize international legitimacy, and so will the government.”
Abbas said he held Israel responsible for the crisis in the peace talks because of its refusal to release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners at the end of March.
He accused Israel of refusing to halt settlement construction.
He said he would agree to an extension of the talks only if prisoners are released and there is a complete cessation of settlement construction. He added that the new government would honor all previous agreements signed by the PLO.
“No one has the right to say that this is a terrorist or extremist government,” he added.
He also called for an end to the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
“Ninety-five percent of the water there is polluted and they are drinking salty water,” he said. “Also, there are no basic materials. The tunnels have been closed and I support closing all of them. But the Palestinians there should be given all their rights.”
Abbas reiterated his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, noting that the PLO had already recognized the country’s existence. He pointed out that neither Egypt nor Jordan had been requested to recognize Israel as a Jewish state when they signed their peace treaties.
“Why are we being asked to recognize the Jewishness of Israel?” he asked. “I say no to recognizing the Jewish state. Why don’t they go to the United Nations and demand that it recognizes them as a Jewish state?” Abbas vowed to continue working toward achieving an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
“We won’t forget Jerusalem and we must remember it on all occasions,” he said. “Jerusalem is the capital and the heart of the Palestinian state, and without it there will be no state.”
Abbas accused Israel of not wanting a “reasonable settlement” based on a two-state solution where the two states would live alongside each other in security and stability.
“I wrote a letter to [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu in which I told him you don’t want negotiations and you don’t want peace,” Abbas said.
“You are a state of occupation and we can’t accept the status quo.”
He said that he would not make any concessions on the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
“If there is a refugee who does not want to return, he can stay where he is in agreement with the hosting country and take compensation,” Abbas said. “Or if there are refugees who would like to go from one country to another or return to the Palestinian state, they can take compensation.
But there should be a right of return in accordance [with] United Nations [General Assembly] Resolution 194.
We have not abandoned the right of return.”