Abbas: Netanyahu fears for his government
In interview with Channel 1 TV, Palestinian president says there is worldwide consensus regarding settlement construction freeze, 'so why can't I say it?' He explains PM Netanyahu told him extension of moratorium impossible due to coalition wellbeing concerns
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is determined not to resume peace talks until Israel renews its settlement construction freeze. In an interview which will be broadcast Sunday evening on Channel 1 TV Abbas said, "When Obama became president he was the one who declared: 'Settlement construction must be stopped.' The United States is saying it, Europe is saying it and the whole world is saying it – why should I not say it?"
The Palestinian president told interviewer Oded Granot that there is worldwide consensus regarding the construction moratorium.
"When we went to Annapolis, all those present – more than 50 states – said that construction in settlements must be stopped. At the same time, President Bush said: 'We shall carry out this mission and supervise it. We shall create a freeze committee to supervise the construction freeze in settlements.' We relied on Bush's statement and went ahead with negotiations."
Abbas also noted that he posed the construction freeze as a condition for the Olmert administration. "Now, we're not setting any terms," he stated.
Abbas further stated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told him he could not comply with the demand to extend the moratorium. "Netanyahu told me: 'I cannot under any circumstance. I fear for my government.' Government is not more precious than peace. Government is not more precious that the future of both peoples," Abbas said.
Recognition of Israel
On Friday, Abbas reiterated his statement that he will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Addressing the issue in the interview he said, "Obviously we recognize the State of Israel. It's obviously a Jewish state. If you want it recognized as the Jews' state you are free to do so. But you did not ask recognition from Egypt, Jordan or any other country in the world. You can do whatever you want, but it's not my business."
Asked about Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's claim that the refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state would prompt future national claims by Arab Israelis, Abbas noted, "These claims are groundless. We recognized the State of Israel in 1993, we negotiated, the PLO came here and we signed dozens of agreements. We recognize that the Palestinian state should be established on the 1967 borders. If we reach this there is something else of importance – ending the conflict.
"We are ready to do this. We are ready to put an end to the historic demands. But when Lieberman comes up with such demands – he is not interested in peace."
The Palestinian leader also addressed the possibility that the Palestinian Authority would disband should the talks fail and Israel re-seize responsibility of the territories. "The dismantlement of the PA is not yet relevant and we have not discussed it, but all options are open…Today Israel is occupying the territories but bears no responsibility."
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