Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that we will know whether or not talks with Israel will resume "within days" and any resultant peace terms will be put to a referendum. Speaking to Al-Ra'y in his office in Ramallah, Abbas said that US Secretary of State John Kerry has had the PA's terms in his hands. "However, if no agreement is reached, all options are open," he pointed out. "We are an observer state at the UN, an important achievement," he added in a veiled threat to go to the international community for full UN status should Israel reject Palestinian terms.
President Abbas was at pains to stress that the rights of the Palestinian people will be protected, no matter what options are chosen.
"Our first choice is to reach an independent state through negotiations on borders and security while setting a timetable for the negotiations, where the position of the settlements built since 1967 will be confirmed as illegal." Although he echoed Benjamin Netanyahu in saying that peace terms will be put to a national referendum that is not so easy for Palestinians. No details were given about whether those allowed to vote would be limited to Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank or would include those in the Gaza Strip and the Diaspora. Previous "national" votes have excluded the Diaspora, leading to claims that its members do not have a say on matters such as negotiating away their legal, individual right to return to their homeland.
Abbas pointed out that the United States is serious about reaching a political solution to the Palestinian issue by establishing a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. He explained that the refugee issue will discussed according to the Arab Peace Initiative, in addition to the agreement on borders, security and prisoners.
He said that any security solution must remove Israel from Palestinian land while retaining a right to protect its borders with the consent of the neighbouring countries. "We want a two-state solution," he insisted, and he blamed Netanyahu for the negotiations impasse. "We almost reached an agreement with the former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, but the man fell politically and the current prime minister came to power, disrupting the path to peace."
Stressing that federation with Jordan "is not on the table", Abbas emphasised that there will be no Palestinian migration to their neighbour on the East Bank. He pointed to the excellent relations the Palestinians have with Jordan, with support from King Abdullah, "who instructs his offices to serve the Palestinian cause". The kingdom, he noted, backs the Palestinian position in all international forums.
The Palestinian president was critical of the general Arab position not to visit the land of Palestine on the grounds that this would "normalise" relations with Israel. He praised King Abdullah and Jordanian institutions for doing the opposite. "Tourism in Palestine would improve economic conditions, apart from anything else."
The legitimacy of his own position and that of his government has to be renewed with presidential, legislative and national elections, said Abbas. "We have to renew the legitimacy of the Palestinian National Authority." He did not say whether Hamas, his own Fatah movement's main rival, would be allowed to participate, having won the previous election in 2006, leaving yet another unanswered very important question. All attempts at reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas have failed to produce anything tangible.
Report from Ramallah by Abdul Razzaq Abu Hazim