Abbas: We are ready to return to negotiations conditionally
Published Thursday 08/05/2014 (updated) 10/05/2014 12:00
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview on Thursday that the Palestinians are ready to resume negotiations under the condition that Israel releases the fourth batch of veteran Palestinian prisoners and halts settlement construction for three months.
The comments, which came during a televised interview, came only two weeks after Israel halted peace negotiations following a unity deal between Palestinian political parties Hamas and Fatah, putting an end to months of fruitless talks.
Abbas said in the interview that it was Israel that had halted the negotiations, not the Palestinians, and that Israel had threatened to stop allowing the transfer of funds to the Palestinian Authority, a threat he called a form of "gangsterism."
He said that so far he had not heard a response from Israel on the resumption of talks, but that the Palestinians continued to plan on joining international organizations if Israel does not agree to three conditions.
In April, Palestine applied to join a number of international treaties after Israel failed to release a group of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails for more than two decades.
Abbas added that he was not going to disband the Palestinian Authority but that if Israel wants to "bring down" the Palestinian Authority that it should do so, and that in that case Palestinians have the right to go to international bodies and to demand Israel take responsibility.
Abbas also commented on demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, highlighting the contradiction of the Israeli request in light of Israel's failure to recognize the Palestinian people.
"Since 1948 Israel does not recognize the Palestinian people, and since 1967 it does not recognize the Palestinian people, and those who gave them the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate do not recognize the Palestinian people, and Israel believes that they live by chance in this country."
"In response to Israel's request to recognize the 'Jewish state' we said that we did not hear about the 'Jewish state' three years ago," he continued. "We told them that we recognize the state of Israel," highlighting that Israel "signed a peace accord with Jordan and Egypt and did not make this request, and (Israel) can go to the UN and change the name of the state" as they like.
Abbas also spoke about the internal organization of the Fatah party, stressing that it was in need of internal reorganization and would have a general conference in August in order to prepare for Palestinian elections.
Palestinian general elections, which have not taken place since 2006, would take place within 6 months, he added.
In late April, the two major Palestinian political parties Hamas -- which controls the Gaza Strip -- and Fatah -- which controls the West Bank through the PLO -- reconciled after nearly seven years of Palestinian political division.
The move followed a near breakdown of peace talks after months of Israel's continued construction of Jewish-only settlements in the Palestinian West Bank, and led Israel to halt the US-backed negotiations.