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Abbas reassures Palestinian-Americans
Published Friday 24/09/2010 (updated) 25/09/2010 16:21
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NEW YORK (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas met with Palestinian-Americans from across the 50 states on Thursday, for an hour-long meeting where he reasserted his position on a resumption of settlement construction.

"I will say this once in front of you, if they want negotiations, then they will continue with settlement freeze otherwise the negotiations will stop, and we are sorry to waste the opportunity," Abbas told assembled guests.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told colleagues during a series of phone calls seeking to find a solution to the settlement issue, "if the Palestinians want peace, they will stay in the talks with us in order to reach a framework agreement within one year."

Abbas, speaking at the Egyptian Embassy in New York, made clear that he was resolute on the issue, saying "we told the Americans and Israel that we will not continue with the negotiations if the settlements were not frozen on our ground, this is our condition; we had said it and we are saying it in each bilateral meeting, in each group meeting."

Explaining the pressures he faced, Abbas said that "the Israelis say to us: you negotiated with Olmert while settlements were being built, why won't you talk now. And I say to them, that is in the past, and we have never stopped demanding a settlement halt. Enough is enough."

Laying out his negotiations position, the president explained that he was negotiating for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. "We do not mind land swaps of similar value in some instances," he said, adding that the prospect of international forces from NATO or similar to the UNIFIL force operating in southern Lebanon was agreeable to officials.

The forces, he added, must simply not be Israeli, or even include one single Israeli whether from the civilian population or the military.

"East Jerusalem is ours and West Jerusalem is theirs. The city can and should be open to all religions, but it must first be clear that this is our capital."

Asked what would be done if talks failed, Abbas said it was not his decision to make. "The PLO leadership, the National Council, Fatah and leaders of other factions would have to decide what to do," he said.

Addressing Palestinian-Americans

The Palestinian president addressed more than 100 Palestinians from as far west as California, telling a large contingent from Chicago that he was sorry he could not travel to meet them following an invitation to speak in Illinois. "You must please pardon me, I’m an elderly man, I can’t travel all of these distances."

He promised, however, that "the Palestinian leadership will work on that," and that he understood "why you all came from such faraway places to attend this meeting; we must continue these forums so we can exchange ideas, consult, check on your situations and give you valued news of your homeland."

Abbas then gave a sweeping update on negotiations from George Bush senior to the present day. He said Palestinian officials had hoped for an even larger Arab presence at the opening round of talks in Washington, but added that in the end the United States had decided on the guest list.

Unity

Fatah continues to support the Egyptian unity document, Abbas said, commenting on recent visits by party officials to Lebanon and Syria for visits with top level Hamas leaders.

"The PA had agreed on it to restore unity," he said of the document, adding that "we formed a national unity government with Hamas and did not care that the world laid siege to us on that account.

"They say the Abbas is under American pressure, but I ratified the Egyptian proposal and I had formed with Hamas a unity government. I transfer $121 million - 58 percent of the PA budget - monthly to Gaza even after the coup, but Hamas does not care and does not understand that 96 percent of the water in Gaza is polluted, that economic life has been destroyed, and they have made the people there live off goods smuggled in through tunnels."

When Hamas decides to ratify the unity agreement, Abbas said, he will immediately form a unity government. The first mission of that government would be bringing in some $4 billion dollars in aid pledged to rebuild Gaza after former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert launched the 2008-9 war on the coastal enclave.

The second mandate of the unity government would be to go immediately to presidential and parliamentary elections. "My term is over, their term is over; elections must be held if we are to be honest."

Abbas said that in comparison with Gaza, the West Bank was flourishing. "I do not claim that there is full growth, but the conditions are different, life is improving, there are theaters, restaurants, places open until dawn because people feel safe. We do not lack independence, we are building the foundations of a state that will be ready the moment we declare independence."
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1 ) george / USA
24/09/2010 15:03
There are only 50 states in the USA.

2 ) Ann / USA
24/09/2010 15:50
And here is the clarification from Abbas. Folks, whether anyone is for or against the 2 state plan it sure seems like the moment of Truth for the Middle East is almost upon us all. I pray for patience & Peace to prevail for all of us.

3 ) Plain / Truth
24/09/2010 16:28
If the two leaders keep their promises
"NO Freeze" and "NO Talks",
then there will NEVER be any borders!!

Without borders there will NEVER be a Palestinian State,
for the UN to recognize, and things like the Gaza blockade,
the Security Fence, and settlement expansion will continue!!!

Is that what Abbas wants for his people?


4 ) southparkbear / usa
24/09/2010 17:04
George don't be a party pooper. beside you will solicit an answer that there is an ober zionizt state controlling the 50

5 ) one state solution / here we come
24/09/2010 17:11
one man one vote in pisreal

6 ) Jeneen / USA
24/09/2010 18:53
Mr. Abbas needs to retire. He "is an old man and can't travel much", really? Why is he jet setting for US and Israel--is this all the energy he has left? Who did he speak with from Pal. American folks? Big component left out here. Just like Pal. we are also in conflict with who our community leaders are--what ideas and practices they support. I bet u Mr Abbas met with like minded idiot Pal. Americans. He wouldn't dare come near places we would protest his treachery. What a sorry-sort leader.

7 ) BEN JABO / ISRAEL/USA
25/09/2010 00:54
5 ) one state solution / "here we come",

it's already there, it's called Jordan, a short way over the Allenby bridge,
take a bus or taxi, and bingo, you're home, where you belong

Don't forget to tell King Abdullah want you want, before he has you locked up because you opened your mouth

8 ) BEN JABO / ISRAEL/USA
25/09/2010 00:56
6 ) Jeneen / USA

Abbas has more than enough backseat drivers telling how to do things

Instead of being in the USA, you should be with him, advising how to run things

It's perspiration that counts, inspiration is a nickel a thousand

9 ) Malach HaMavet / Gehenem
25/09/2010 00:58
5) one state scru u

It must have taken you at least a month to come up with your brilliant statement

10 ) Joe Fattal / USA
25/09/2010 04:29
7) That's the purpose of the settlements that Israel build, is to push the Palestinians back to Jordan, and from Gaza to Egypt. Another form of reprisal. Most of them are unaffordable anyhow to the locals. If the settlements stop or the freeze continue, I can bet you Israel will invade Gaza again. Another thing, if this peace process is showing to succeed somehow, again Israel will go into Gaza.

11 ) Jordan? / Europe
25/09/2010 14:18
What is this talk about Palestinians going "home" to Jordan? Jordan is not their home country (like Russia and States to many of the Jews living in Israel..). Jordan belongs tot he Jordanians, Palestine to Palestinians. And Palestine shouldn't be a MUSLIM state, Palestine belongs to Christian Palestinians as well. And also to the Jews whose ancestors have lived there since thousands of years. But it doesn't belong to American or Russian Jews, or European Jews.. Or Muslims from across the world.

12 ) BEN JABO / ISRAEL/USA
25/09/2010 16:52
11 ) Jordan? / Europe

There never was a Kingdom of Jordan until the British made it so, it was a gift to the Emir Abdullah for not giving the Brits a hard time during WW One

Joe Fattal/USA

You only have your brothers to thank for the settlements, if they hadn't repeatedly attacked Israel, Israel wouldn't have found it necessary to build any of them
Do us both a favor, Google "Timelines '67" and find out what you're talking about, the reasaons the settlemnts came into being


13 ) And? / Europe
27/09/2010 14:08
Ben Jabo: And? There was no state of Israel before 1948. So what? The fact that there was no Jordan until the British made it so, doesn't make Jordan Palestine. British made Israel also, but it doesn't mean the Palestinians don't have the right to live there also.
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