In a letter to be delivered to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in several days, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is demanding that Israel accept the establishment of a Palestinian state “on the 1967 borders” with possible minor adjustments, halt all building over the Green Line, and release all prisoners.
If Israel fails to do this, Abbas vows, the Palestinians will “seek the full and complete implementation of international law” to deal with Israel’s presence “as occupying power in all of the occupied Palestinian territory.” The situation as it stands, he states, “cannot continue.”
The letter is set to be delivered later this week. The text referred to in this article was obtained by The Times of Israel on Sunday, and may be changed before the letter is presented. Netanyahu is set to meet with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Tuesday. The Israeli prime minister called last week for direct talks with Abbas, but Abbas refused, demanding a freeze in Israeli building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In the letter, some of which is markedly bitter in tone and questions Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution, Abbas comes close to threatening to dismantle the PA in frustration at the diplomatic deadlock, as he had reportedly contemplated doing, but he refrains from such a threat.
“As a result of actions taken by successive Israeli governments,” he writes, “the Palestinian National Authority no longer has any authority, and no meaningful jurisdiction in the political, economic, social, territorial and security spheres. In other words, the P.A. lost its reason d’être.”
Abbas states that the Palestinians have submitted a “historic Peace Proposal” but are “waiting for an answer from Israel” on its specifics. “We asked your government to also submit comprehensive proposals on territory, security, and to commit to a settlement freeze, and release prisoners. These were not preconditions but Israeli obligations. To our deep regret, none of these commitments were honored,” he writes.
Among the elements in the Palestinian proposal cited by Abbas:
• “We agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22% of the territory of historical Palestine-on all the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel in 1967.
• “The establishment of independent Palestinian State that can live side-by-side with the State of Israel in peace and security on the borders of 1967 with mutually agreed swaps equal in size and value.
• “Security will be guaranteed by a third party accepted by both, to be deployed on the Palestinian side.
• “A just and agreed resolution for the refugees’ problem as specified in the Arab Peace Initiative.
• “Jerusalem will serve as a capital of two States. East Jerusalem capital of Palestine. West Jerusalem capital of Israel. Jerusalem as an open city can be the symbol of peace.”
The letter details the history of Israeli-Palestinian negotiating contacts since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. It acknowledges that both leaders “face skepticism and opposition” and declares: “In the quest of peace we have to help each other. We know that violence and terror whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis is not the way. I know that it erodes both of our public’s trust in peace. Therefore, I reiterate our full commitment to a policy of zero tolerance against violence.
“At the same token,” it continues, “I expect your understanding that settlement building is eroding the Palestinian trust in your commitment to reconciliation and the idea of the two states solution. The logic is simple: If you support the establishment of a Palestinian state, why do you build on its territory?”
Abbas also explains his efforts at reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas: “Among the most critical components of the signed agreements between the PLO and Israel is the recognition that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip constitute a single territorial unit, the integrity of which must be preserved until a final status agreement is reached,” he writes. “As such it is subject to one law and one authority. In recognition of this, I have been determined to end the division of my people through national reconciliation, in accordance with my political program which respects signed agreements, recognizes the State of Israel, and renounces violence. With regret, the Government of Israel has chosen to take a position diametrically opposed to Palestinian national reconciliation.”
Abbas ends the letter with a series of demands: “In furtherance of the peace process and the agreements we signed with Israel, which were premised on international legitimacy, international law, and internationally-recognized terms of reference, we call on the Government of Israel to do the following:
“1- Accept the two-state solution on the 1967 borders with possible minor and mutually agreed upon land swaps of equal size and value;
“2- Stop all settlement activities, including in East Jerusalem;
“3- Release all prisoners, in particular those imprisoned prior to the end of 1994; and
“4- Revoke all decisions taken since 2000 which undermine agreements signed between Israel and the PLO.”
If Israel does not “honor these above-referenced obligations,” Abbas writes, “we will seek the full and complete implementation of international law as it pertains to the powers and responsibilities of Israel as occupying power in all of the occupied Palestinian territory. For the Palestinian Authority—now stripped of all meaningful authority—cannot continue to honor agreements while Israel refuses to even acknowledge its commitments. The P.A. is no longer as was agreed and this situation cannot continue.”
“Mr. Prime Minister,” Abbas concludes, “I strongly believe that both our peoples yearn for peace. As leaders, it’s our historic task to make it happen. Let’s not fail our peoples.”