Abbas: If Israel rejects our terms, we'll head back to UN

Palestinian Authority President Abbas threatens to return to UN Security Council, General Assembly for state recognition if J'lem doesn't agree to pre-'67 borders, halting settlement activity.

Abbas at Arab League in Cairo_391 (photo credit: Reuters)
Abbas at Arab League in Cairo_391
(photo credit: Reuters)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday he would send messages to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and world leaders defining the terms of reference and bases for resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
In a speech before Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo, Abbas warned that if Israel did not reply to his messages he would resume efforts to unilaterally seek United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state.
Abbas conditioned the resumption of direct negotiations with Israel on a full cessation of construction in settlements and east Jerusalem, Israeli acceptance of the two-state solution on the basis of the pre-1967 lines and the release of Palestinian prisoners and detainees – especially those who were imprisoned before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
One Israeli diplomatic source, referring to the low-level Israeli-Palestinian talks held last month in Jordan, said: “Every time we start to make progress, Abbas runs away. This also characterized him during previous rounds of negotiations. Precisely when Israel starts to show flexibility is when he decides to blow up the negotiations.”
The official said whenever Abbas has to make decisions, he “flees by creating more preconditions.”
The Prime Minister’s Office, meanwhile, responded to Abbas’ speech at the Arab League by issuing a statement saying he has “turned his back on peace.”
“Instead of entering into negotiations that will lead to an end to the conflict, Abu Mazen [Abbas] prefers to join up with the Hamas terrorist organization, the same Hamas that is hugging Iran,” the statement read.
Abbas again hinted at the possibility of dissolving the PA if no progress is achieved to revive the peace process.
“The Palestinian Authority cannot remain without authority,” he said. “The status quo cannot remain like this.”
Abbas said he would first wait for a response from Israel to his messages.
“If they do not respond, we will begin our steps at the Security Council, General Assembly and other UN institutions,” he said. “We will also demand the activation of the 1949 Geneva Convention regarding the protection of civilians during war.”
Abbas added that he did not rule out the possibility that under such circumstances Congress would cut off financial aid to the PA and Israel would withhold tax revenues belonging to the Palestinians.
The PA president renewed his call to Israel to accept the 2002 Arab peace plan, which he described as the “most precious initiative for the Palestinian cause in 60 years.” He told the Arab foreign ministers that during last month’s Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jordan, the Palestinians presented their views regarding borders and security, while Israel did not do anything.
But Israel, he charged, was refusing to freeze settlement construction, present maps and recognize the road map for peace.
Referring to last week’s Qatar-brokered reconciliation accord between Fatah and Hamas, Abbas said he would head a transitional government tasked with preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections and rebuilding the Gaza Strip.
He warned, however, that the elections would be called off if Israel did not allow the vote to take place in east Jerusalem.
“We can not hold elections without east Jerusalem,” Abbas stressed.
Earlier, Azzam Ahmed, a top aide to Abbas, said the Palestinians would ask the Arab League to call for the convening of an international peace conference.
“One of the proposals we will request from the Arab Follow- Up Committee is for a call to convene an international peace conference on the Palestinian issue,” Ahmed told AFP.
He said the Palestinian delegation was hopeful “that the final statement of the Follow- Up Committee would include a call for an international conference on the Palestinian issue.”
However, Abbas did not mention the idea of an international conference in his speech.
Israeli officials reacted coolly to reports that the Palestinians would be seeking an international Middle East peace conference, with one diplomatic source saying “there is no substitute for direct negotiations.”
According to the source, the low-level Israeli-Palestinian talks that began last month in Jordan “were a move in the right direction,” and should be allowed to continue.
The source said key players in the international community – including the US, EU and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – have all called for those talks to continue. The last of five rounds of talks was held on January 25.
Israel has historically been very hesitant about taking part in international peace conferences, preferring either direct talks or negotiations under US auspices.
What Abbas should be doing now, rather than looking for an international peace conference, is give a clear indication of whether he is interested in peace with Israel or Hamas, one official said.
The official added that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s visit over the weekend to Iran and his meetings with supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should serve as a “wake-up call” for anyone who believes Hamas is moving into the mainstream.
“Hamas is an organization with an extremist agenda, which rejects peace and reconciliation, and in many ways shares the radical positions of the Iranian government,” the official said. “In fact Hamas is an Iranian proxy.”
Haniyeh was quoted by Iranian state television as telling Ahmadinejad that Hamas would continue the “resistance,” reject peace talks and work toward the liberation of “all Palestinian lands.” He also referred to Iran as the Palestinians’ “strategic reserve.”
Likud Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, speaking to reporters before Sunday’s cabinet meeting, said that anyone who saw the pictures of Haniyeh sitting next to Ahmadinejad over the weekend, and called for Israel’s destruction, realized that they were “birds of a feather.”
“We are talking about two people who raise the banner of violence and jihad, and who think Israel has no right to exist,” he said.
Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov (Israel Beitenu) went even further, saying Abbas’ recent efforts to reconcile with Hamas meant that “Abu Mazen equals Ahmadinejad,” something he said was “dangerous for Israel.”
Another Israeli Beitenu minister, National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau, stated the connection between Hamas and Iran was not surprising, “just as the connection between Abu Mazen and [Hamas head] Khaled Mashaal – and through him Iran – is not surprising. That is the axis of evil.”
Landau said it was “impossible to conduct negotiations with that group of organized criminals.”