Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
said Thursday that the Palestinian Authority intends to pursue peace negotiations with Israel
despite of its reconciliation with Hamas.
Abbas, who met with top "Israel Initiative" representatives, said that "negotiations have been ongoing since 1993, when Arafat recognized the State of Israel and Rabin
said he recognized the PLO as the Palestinians' representative. We will continue these talks for the PLO. The new government and the peace talks are two different things."
The transitional Palestinian government set to be formed by the two Palestinian factions pending their elections, he added, "has nothing to do with politics. That is solely in the hands of the PLO."
Turning his attention to the case of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit,
Abbas said that Fatah
"expressed sympathy and have spared no efforts in trying to release him. So have the Egyptians. His family is suffering, but please remember that we have 8,000 prisoners. We are not comparing the two cases, but our case is important, too."
Abbas slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's
statement that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, saying "Hamas is part of the Palestinian people. I cannot ignore them. They are a part of us and Netanyahu is our partner. We don’t want to choose between the two.
"Netanyahu will have to choose between peace and settlements. We are not asking for any of the settlements to be evicted at this time, just for a (construction) freeze. If Israel withdraws from the territories, all Arab countries will normalize their relations with it, and that will be followed by the Muslim nations," the Palestinian president said.
Meanwhile, top Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said Thursday that his organization does not intend to recognize Israel or conduct any peace talks with it.
Al-Zahar added that it will not stop Fatah negotiations with Israel, since "if Fatah wants to negotiate with Israel over trivialities, they can."
The recent Hamas-Fatah reconciliation will not change the group's creed, he said. "If Fatah wants to pursue statehood they are welcome to do so. As far as we are concerned the last two decades saw no peace talks. We were party to none." The transitional government set to be formed by the two Palestinian factions pending the Palestinian elections will be devoid the necessary mandate to negotiate with Israel.