'I'll resign if no peace by end of 08'

Abbas tells Beilin in Egypt that failure to make peace "would be a tremendous victory to extremist groups."

Mubarak abbas 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Mubarak abbas 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday threatened to resign if there is no peace agreement with Israel this year. Speaking to former Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Sharm e-Sheikh, the PA president said that the next six months were the most crucial and that if no agreement is reached between the Israelis and the Palestinians within that time, there will be no reason for him to continue in his role. "Israel will not have a better partner than the group leading the PLO today, which believes the Palestinian interest is a historic reconciliation with Israel and a Palestinian state alongside it," said Abbas, adding that if there is no agreement, "Israel will find itself with no partner at all." Abbas went on to say that a deadlock in peace negotiations would likely bring the Middle East back to "the tragedy of 2000 which followed the failure at Camp David." A statement issued by Beilin's office quoted Abbas as saying that he "would see no point in continuing in his position" if a deal is not reached. "I didn't take the presidency upon myself in order to serve the role of president but rather to pursue a mission, and I have no point in continuing in this capacity if it becomes apparent that we can't reach peace," the statement quoted Abbas as saying. He warned that failure to reach a peace deal "would be a tremendous victory to the extremist groups in the region." Also Sunday, Egyptian security chief Omar Suleiman told Beilin that if he received a green light from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, he could set a time tomorrow for a cease-fire to begin. He said that if Israel agreed to the list of Palestinian prisoners, kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit could be included in the deal. Suleiman said that due to Israel's opposition to names on the list, negotiations to bring about Schalit's release could only begin after a cease-fire is reached. Beilin replied that the cease-fire would test Hamas' ability to prevent other groups from attacking Israelis. Earlier Sunday, during a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Abbas said that US President George W. Bush's speech in the Knesset Thursday, in which he showered Israel with praise and strongly reiterated its right to defend itself, angered the Palestinians. "In principle, the Bush speech at the Knesset angered us, and we were not happy with it," Abbas told reporters in Sharm e-Sheikh. "This is our position and we have a lot of remarks (about the speech) and I frankly, clearly and transparently asked him that the American position should be balanced," Abbas said. Abbas also expressed pessimism regarding the peace negotiations. "So far, we have not reached an agreement on any issue. Any report indicating otherwise in simply not true," he said. After meeting Mubarak, Abbas told reporters: "We do not want the Americans to negotiate on our behalf. All that we want from them is to stand by (our) legitimacy ... and have a minimum of neutrality." Abbas told Bush directly about his concerns with the Knesset speech when the two met on Saturday at the Egyptian resort, according to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. Also in Egypt Sunday, Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu met with Mubarak, and asked him to close off the Philadelphi Corridor. "Hamas is a mutual enemy of Israel and Egypt," Netanyahu told Mubarak. "Israel has no choice but to topple the Hamas regime." Mubarak invited Netanyahu to visit Egypt in an official capacity, not just in the context of the conference. The two men also discussed the threat from Iran, which Netanyahu said prevented any advance in the diplomatic process.