Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday called for Israel to return to the negotiating table in a speech marking the anniversary of what the Palestinians consider to be the “Catastrophe,” or the Naqba, of Israel’s creation.
Unlike in past years, Palestinians have not planned massive demonstrations on the day marking the anniversary of the event, and Abbas used the occasion to appeal to the Israelis with a message of peace that discouraged unilateral steps.
”Let’s stop the pretext that there’s no Palestinian partner,” He said in the speech. “The partner exists, and we extend our hand to you
”I tell our neighbors, the Israelis, that we want to make a just and lasting peace with you, and we want a better future for our children and yours. So come to make this year a year of peace,” He said in a recorded speech set to be broadcast later Monday on Palestinian television and radio. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the speech.
Abbas also urged Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip to halt rocket attacks on Israel, saying that the violence encourages Israel to step up its military activity and proceed with unilateral plans to impose a border on the Palestinians.
At 1 p.m., a mourning siren was scheduled to sound throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas planned to deliver a separate speech late Monday in Gaza, reflecting the ongoing rift between his group and Abbas’ moderate Fatah movement.
Hamas has rejected the international community’s calls to renounce violence, despite a crippling economic boycott that has left the government broke and unable to pay the salaries to tens of thousands of employees.
In his speech, Abbas signaled to Hamas that it must change its ways and pursue a path of diplomacy. “The PLO, which led our people in its most difficult times, would not have survived until now, or received international recognition, had it not been forthcoming in formulating courageous political initiatives,” He said.
At the same time, he welcomed the recent decision by Western donors to restore humanitarian aid to the impoverished Palestinians. It remains unclear, however, when the money will begin flowing, or how exactly it will be spent.
He called on the “Quartet” Of Mideast peace makers - the US, European Union, United Nations and Russia - to convene an international conference to “Realize the dream ... That will result in the creation of an independent free and democratic Palestinian state with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Associated Press contributed to the report.