Notwithstanding recent Israeli media reports, the Middle East peace talks are not at an impasse, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday.
“The negotiations are difficult, but they haven’t reached a dead end. They are still in the initial stage and we have enough time to further deal with the main issues that turn out to be difficult,” Abbas told German Deutsche Welle television. “Such things are being claimed, but we have not gotten into a dead end.”
In the interview, Abbas stopped short of saying that continued Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank destroys the peace process, as some Palestinians officials have suggested. “But we do say: the settlement policy must not be continued. The incursions into the Palestinian territories must not be continued. The encroachments of the settlers must not go on. The attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque must not go on. All this hinders the peace process and obstructs the way to solutions,” Abbas said. “All this is true. But we carry on nevertheless.”
The Palestinian leader, speaking in Arabic, said he couldn’t reveal any details of the current state of the negotiations but intimated that the pre-1967 lines are the basis for talks regarding future borders. “I can name the titles of the issues that are negotiated. For example borders, the border between us and Israel. And that is the border of 1967.”
Asked by the interviewer whether Israel isn’t justified in being wary of signing an agreement with the PA, given that the Palestinians are divided into conflicted camps, Abbas said that he was speaking for the entire Palestinian people. “Is there an opposition? Yes. Is it strong? Yes. Does [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu have an opposition? Yes. Is it strong? Perhaps. There is no state on earth that doesn’t have an opposition. Is there any state that doesn’t sign a treaty out of fear of the opposition? And when this state signs a treaty, should the other state not sign this treaty out of fear of this opposition?”
If the Palestinians were to sign a peace treaty with Israel, they would be willing to give guarantees, Abbas added. In addition, both parties agree that any future peace agreement would have to be “legitimized” by a referendum. “So why these fears? There’s no reason for them.”
At a meeting with Labor Party MKs in Ramallah two weeks ago, Abbas spoke in favor of Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, but stressed that the Islamists would have to accept “all our positions” on the negotiations with Israel, including a two-state solution and nonviolent resistance. If they did that, he said, “we’ll immediately hold elections.”