Abbas recognizes Jewish claims to Israel

PA president accepts west J'lem as capital; combating incitement.

Obama, Abbas shake hands 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Obama, Abbas shake hands 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON - Jewish leaders pressed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the issues of incitement and direct talks.

Abbas met for dinner Wednesday evening with an array of the national Jewish leadership under the auspices of the Center for Middle East Peace. The meeting came after he met with President Obama at the White House.

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The major topic of the evening was Abbas' reluctance to advance from proximity talks, brokered by the United States, to direct talks with Israel. Both Obama and Netanyahu favor direct talks.

Palestinian leaders had previously said the obstacle was Israel's refusal to advance from a partial to a total settlement freeze, but Abbas backed away from that reasoning, and instead stuck to a "legalistic" argument, in the word of several of those present: He wanted direct talks, but only after proximity talks had achieved progress on the "core issues,"  of borders, Jerusalem and refugees.

On the issue of incitement, Abbas accepted that there was some incitement in official Palestinian media, according to meeting participants. However, he expressed frustration that Israel did not recognize his efforts to end incitement in the mosques, saying he was the only Arab leader to centralize Friday sermons and to remove imams who incited against Israel.

Abbas repeated his call for a trilateral commission, comprising Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United States, that would examine and penalize incitement on both sides of the conflict, and expressed frustration that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had rejected the idea.

Jewish leaders also pressed him on reaching out to Israelis to reassure them of Palestinian intentions.

On that score, Abbas said he recognized the ancient Jewish claims to Israel, and recognized west Jerusalem as Israel's capital, adding that the Palestinians had an equal claim to eastern Jerusalem as their capital. He said he had appeared on Israeli television for a 30-minute interview, and had pressed  Netanyahu to do the same on Palestinian TV; Netanyahu declined.