RAMALLAH — In a meeting with hundreds of Israeli activists, writers and academics at the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in Ramallah, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that peace won’t be achieved via the UN, but ultimately only though dialogue.
“The truth is we didn’t need UN resolution 2334,” Abbas said. “It is enough for us to talk in order to get to peace. The only way is for us to live together in this land for peace.”
The December 23 Security Council resolution lambasted Israeli settlements, branded them illegal, and called on all states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” Israel fears such language could lead to an uptick in boycott and sanctions efforts, and Israeli officials have warned it will provide “a tailwind for terror.”
The measure was met with a flurry of furious condemnations from Jerusalem, with politicians issuing scathing criticisms of the countries that pushed for and supported the “anti-Israel” measure, as well as at the Obama administration for withholding its veto power, allowing the resolution to pass. Senior officials, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accused the White House of covertly authoring and shepherding the resolution.
But Abbas railed at Israeli officials who criticized the resolution, saying, “It is not against Israel, but only against the settlements… It calls for supporting a two-state solution and ending settlement construction. Who can oppose that? That is why everyone supported it.”
Speaking to the crowd of Israelis, who were bused in from all around Israel with the help of the PA’s Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, Abbas was adamant that his government opposes violence.
“We do not believe in violence or radicalism, and we will never believe in it,” he said. “Only a small portion of Israelis don’t want peace. We will convince them through peaceful means and no other way.”
Sitting next to Abbas throughout much of the night was former Israeli lawmaker and prominent peace activist Uri Avnery.
Abbas said the two of them have been friends for 35 years, since Avnery met the PA leader in Tunisia during, where the Palestine Liberation Organization’s leadership headquartered after it was expelled from Lebanon in 1982.
The 91-year-old Avnery told that crowd that when he first met former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, also in Tunisia, Arafat told him, “If you want to talk peace, go speak to [Abbas].”
Since the 1970s, Abbas has been involved in dialogue with Israelis.
“We must not tarry (in making peace),” Abbas, 81, said during his speech. “I want to have peace before me and Avnery die.”
Abbas made clear that he was especially appreciative of the French, and especially President Francis Hollande, for putting a peace initiative together. Later this month, Paris is set to host a conference to establish clear terms of reference for any future Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Some 70 nations are expected to attend, although Israel and the Palestinians will not be participating.
Many of the Israelis who attended the event said they went specifically to support Abbas’s acceptance of the French initiative, and to show that there is a partner with whom he can talk peace in Israel.
Michal Brami, 70, an Israeli social activist, told The Times of Israel she decided to go “so that when Abbas goes to Paris, he will know that there is an Israeli side that wants peace.”
She added, “My husband fought in a few wars, and so did my son. I don’t want my grandchildren to have to do the same. Wars happen when the conversation is silenced.”
At the end of the event, Abbas was photographed with the different groups of Israelis who went to the event, including an Iraqi-Jewish group and a contingent of bereaved Israeli families.
Just as he was leaving the hall surrounded by security, one elderly Israeli woman cried out in Hebrew that she had waited to take a picture with him.
Abbas stopped the whole protection cadre, embraced the woman and smiled for a photo before being swept from the hall.