PA outlines expectations of PM's speech

Abbas: Israel must fulfill all previous obligations; Hamas doubts Netanyahu will present new policies.

Abbas 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
On the eve of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech in which he is supposed to outline his government's strategy with respect to the peace process, the Palestinian Authority said it would not accept any solution that does not include an immediate halt to settlement construction and the establishment of an independent and sovereign state. The PA also voiced opposition to the idea of establishing a Palestinian state with provisional borders, while PA officials said they did not expect Netanyahu to come up with anything new. Some Palestinians said they expected Netanyahu's speech to be an attempt to "bypass" pressure by US President Barack Obama to freeze all settlement construction and accept the two-state solution. "Israel must fulfill all its obligations under the terms of the Israeli-Palestinian agreements," PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday. "Israel must also abide by all the United Nations resolutions and the road map plan." Abbas urged the US and the other members of the Quartet - EU, Russia and UN - to exert pressure on the Netanyahu government to accept the two-state solution and halt construction in the settlements. He said that while these parties' position vis-a-vis these two issues was positive, the Palestinians want to see pressure put on Israel. "We call upon them to practice practical pressure on Israel to force it to stop the settlements and recognize the two-state solution," he said. "We want them to lay the mechanism that would oblige Israel to implement all what has been agreed upon." Abbas also said the Palestinians were also demanding that Israel stop building new houses in the eastern part of Jerusalem and end the blockade of the Gaza Strip. PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said the peace process must regain its credibility through the implementation of the road map peace plan. He said the Palestinians want to see an immediate cessation of settlement construction, the removal of the blockade, an end to IDF incursions into PA-controlled territories, the reopening of all the border crossings and an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-September 28, 2000 positions in the West Bank. Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said Abbas and the Palestinians were totally opposed to the notion of creating a temporary Palestinian state. He said this idea was raised in the past and was then also rejected by the Palestinian leadership, noting that all the members of the Quartet supported the Palestinian position. Erekat also said the international community must force the Netanyahu government to accept the two-state solution and halt all settlement construction, including that intended for "natural growth." He said these were not Palestinian or American pre-conditions, but commitments Israel must fulfill under the terms of the road map and other agreements signed with the Palestinians. Erekat noted the road map calls for restoring the status quo that existed in the PA territories before September 2000, reopening all the PLO institutions in Jerusalem that were shut by Israel, lifting the blockade on the Gaza Strip, reopening the border crossings, releasing all the Palestinian prisoners and halting settlement construction. He warned that the Netanyahu government was continuing to "play with words" in a bid to mislead public opinion and avoid fulfilling Israel's commitments. Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials also doubted that Netanyahu would present any real changes in Israel's policy in his address. Senior Islamic Jihad leader Nafez Azzam told the Palestinian Ma'an news agency that the group's affiliates "do not expect anything new that will affect the core of Israel's stance and policies." The prime minister's speech will be "misleading to the public opinion without adding anything new," he said. "It is possible that Netanyahu will respond to recent demands by US President Barack Obama on a two-state solution," but "we do not expect that Netanyahu will approve a halt to settlements, rather, he will try to go around the American position, in addition to presenting some new ones," Azzam continued. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum told the Palestinian agency that "Netanyahu's speech will mislead world public opinion and will be in line with his government's platform, which has affirmed that it will not recognize any previous agreements and that peace does not come about except through war… They [the Israelis] will continue on their extremist project." He went on to urge the world "not to be misled by Netanyahu's speech," adding that "what they should do is deal with the Israeli government based on what it is planning, concerning its expansionist project based on extremism and settlements."