Abbas: Israel’s choice is peace or settlements

Meeting with to determine response if West Bank building resumes. Abbas: "If freeze ends, will consult Palestinian bodies, Arab League."

Abbas 311 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas 311
(photo credit: AP)
The Palestinian Authority has requested an urgent meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers to discuss the future of the peace process, after the moratorium on settlement construction ended on Sunday night.
The request came as the PA continued to issue conflicting statements as to how it would respond if the Israeli government did not extend the moratorium.
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While PA President Mahmoud Abbas and a senior official in Ramallah indicated that they would not pull out of the US-sponsored direct talks with Israel, other Palestinian representatives threatened to halt the negotiations if the construction in the settlements were resumed.
Speaking after meeting with Jewish writers and intellectuals in Paris on Sunday, Abbas said there is only one choice for Israel: “Either peace or settlements,” the Palestinian leader said.
“If it’s peace, then it’s through talks. If (Israel) doesn’t choose it, it will be a waste of time, a waste of opportunities,” Abbas said.
Abbas is scheduled to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday.
The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted Abbas as saying that “if there is no understanding on the settlement freeze, we will go back to the Palestinian institutions and the Arab League.”
Abbas said that until two days ago, he hadn’t received any Israeli or American “formulas” and that he was still waiting for a final answer on the moratorium.
The PA president pointed out that US President Barack Obama had not given the Palestinians any assurances on the issue of settlement construction or the establishment of a Palestinian state within one year.
“Obama only talked about hopes,” Abbas said. “Obama undoubtedly has good intentions, but the test lies in the implementation of his good positions.”
Abbas revealed that the Palestinians were demanding that a third party be present along the borders of the future Palestinian state “so as to calm all parties.” He reiterated his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
“I told the leaders of the Jewish community [in the US] when I met with them that every year they demand something new and we are not prepared to accept this at all,” he said. “When they talk about a Jewish state, it’s because they want to get rid of all the Arabs living in Israel.”
Abbas also rejected the possibility of “militarizing” the intifada.
 “We tried it before, and it led to destruction,” he cautioned.
A senior PA official in Ramallah reiterated on Sunday that the Palestinians would continue with the direct talks even if the moratorium on settlement construction were not extended.
The official said that pulling out of the talks at this stage “would harm the interests of the Palestinians.”
However, Nabil Shaath, a member of the PA delegation to the direct talks, said that the negotiations would be halted if the freeze weren’t extended.
“Either the moratorium is extended or the peace process will unfortunately be stopped,” he said. “Israel will bear full responsibility.”
Shaath said that the Palestinians were not demanding that Israel dismantle the settlements now.
“This is something that we will talk about,” he said. “Why doesn’t Israel extend the freeze for at least another five months?” Maher Ghnaim, the PA minister for settlement and wall affairs, said that the peace talks couldn’t continue while construction in the settlements was under way.
He claimed that even during the 10-month moratorium, Israel had not stopped “building in the settlements, confiscating lands and demolishing houses.”
In another development, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) announced that it was suspending its activities in the PLO in protest of the direct talks between the PA and Israel.
The PFLP is one of several Palestinian groups that operate under the umbrella of the PLO.
Abbas’s Fatah faction is the largest group in the PLO.
Muhammad Dahlan of the Fatah Central Council expressed regret over the decision, which he described as “disappointing.”
AP contributed to this report.