Encountering Peace: What Abbas should say to Israel

When your leaders agree to renew negotiations in good faith, not with one hand out stretched toward us while the other hand is busy building new settlements, we will be there at the table, willing to reach a full and comprehensive peace.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas 370 (R) (photo credit: Luis Galdamez / Reuters)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas 370 (R)
(photo credit: Luis Galdamez / Reuters)
The following is a letter that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas could (and should) write to the people of Israel (especially following the astute diplomatic letter Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman sent to the Quartet last week). This letter is based on existing Palestinian texts and on conversations with Abbas.
To the people of Israel, We, the Palestinian people, seek peace with you, the people of Israel. We seek our independence, in a state of our own, just like you, as your neighbors, living side by side, Palestine next to Israel. I bring before you historic proof of our intentions, as we have let it be known to the entire world.
Our intentions are real, our desire for peace, genuine, our plans for the future, peaceful. On November 15, 1988, in front of the world, and in front of our people, and in our Arabic language we declared our Declaration of Independence:
“Palestine, the land of the three monotheistic faiths, is where the Palestinian Arab people was born, on which it grew, developed and excelled. The Palestinian people was never separated from or diminished in its integral bonds with Palestine... Despite the historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian Arab people resulting in their dispersion and depriving them of their right to self-determination, following upon UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947), which partitioned Palestine into two states, one Arab, one Jewish, it is this Resolution that still provides those conditions of international legitimacy that ensure the right of the Palestinian Arab people to sovereignty...
To be a peace-loving state, in adherence to the principles of peaceful coexistence. It will join with all states and peoples in order assure a permanent peace based upon justice and the respect of rights so that humanity’s potential for well-being may be assured... and in which confidence in the future will eliminate fear for those who are just and for whom justice is the only recourse.”
In our formal request to the United Nations in September last year for full membership in the community of nations we wrote the following:
“In this connection, the State of Palestine affirms its commitment to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the vision of two states living side by side in peace and security, as endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly and the international community as a whole and based on international law and all relevant United Nations resolutions.”
In my address to the General Assembly last September I once again declared our sincere intentions to live in peace with you, the people of Israel.
Because of our conviction in international legitimacy, and because we had the courage to make difficult decisions for our people, and in the absence of absolute justice, we decided to adopt the path of relative justice – justice that is possible and could correct part of the grave historical injustice committed against our people. Thus, we agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22 percent of the territory of historical Palestine – on all the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel in 1967.
The goal of the Palestinian people is the realization of their inalienable national rights in their independent State of Palestine, with east Jerusalem as its capital, on all the land of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in the June 1967 war, in conformity with the resolutions of international legitimacy and with the achievement of a just and agreed upon solution to the Palestine refugee issue in accordance with resolution 194, as stipulated in the Arab Peace Initiative which presented the consensus Arab vision to resolve the core the Arab-Israeli conflict and to achieve a just and comprehensive peace.
To this we adhere and this is what we are working to achieve. Achieving this desired peace also requires the release of political prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons without delay. The PLO and the Palestinian people adhere to the renouncement of violence and rejection and condemning of terrorism in all its forms, especially state terrorism, and adhere to all agreements signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.
We adhere to the option of negotiating a lasting solution to the conflict in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy. Here, I declare that the Palestine Liberation Organization is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference based on international legitimacy and a complete cessation of settlement activities.
Our efforts are not aimed at isolating Israel or delegitimizing it; rather we want to gain legitimacy for the cause of the people of Palestine. We extend our hands to the Israeli government and the Israeli people for peace-making. I say to them: Let us urgently build together a future for our children where they can enjoy freedom, security and prosperity. Let us build the bridges of dialogue instead of checkpoints and walls of separation, and build cooperative relations based on parity and equity between two neighboring states – Palestine and Israel – instead of policies of occupation, settlement, war and eliminating the other.
People of Israel, while some of your leaders work overtime to delegitimize me as the president of Palestine, this is not significant. What is more important is that these same leaders seek to delegitimize the rights of the Palestinian people to a state of their own and their desire to live in peace next to Israel.
I have never said that Jews cannot live in the State of Palestine, never have I held this position. I have never said that all Palestinian refugees must return to their lost homes inside of Israel – in fact I have said that I, the president of Palestine, have to intention to return to my home in Safed. I have also said that I understand that a large-scale return of Palestinian refugees to their original homes would jeopardize the existence of Israel within a two-states solution. I have never refused to negotiate an end to this conflict; in fact, I have dedicated my life to it.
Your leaders may tell you many untruths about me and my people. I assure you that we Palestinian people seek to establish our state and to live in peace with you. We do not seek your destruction; we do not seek your de-legitimization.
When your leaders agree to renew negotiations in good faith, not with one hand out stretched toward us while the other hand is busy building new settlements, we will be there at the table, willing to reach a full and comprehensive peace. In the meantime, we go to the United Nations, not to avoid negotiations, but to preserve the possibility of negotiating in the future.
The writer is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post, a radio host on All for Peace Radio and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit.