GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Friday criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for comments given to Israeli media, alleging that they contradict longtime Palestinian demands.
The Gaza leader said Abbas’s remarks, aired the previous night on Israel’s Channel 2, were “extremely dangerous.”
In the Thursday interview, Abbas spoke about borders of a future Palestinian state, saying the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem were Palestine — and the rest was Israel.
He also said that while he would like to see his birthplace Safed, now a city in northern Israel, he doesn’t want to live there or have the right to live there.
“I am a refugee but I am living in Ramallah. I believe that the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine. And the other parts is Israel,” Abbas said. “I want to see Safed. It is my right to see it but not to live there,” he said.
Palestinian officials did not return calls seeking comment. But Abbas’s remarks do not reflect the official Palestinian position of reaching an agreement where refugees will receive compensation while a smaller amount would be allowed back. Instead, they imply a moderate stance on the longstanding Palestinian demand for a “right of return” to Israel for millions of refugees and descendants of refugees.
Gaza’s Islamist Hamas movement, alongside many other Palestinians, said Abbas’s remarks suggested millions of refugees and their descendants would not return to the places they fled in wars with Israel.
“It is not possible for any person, regardless of who he is … to give up a hand’s width of this Palestinian land, or to give up the right of return to our homes from which we were forced out,” Haniyeh said.
The fate of refugees who fled or were forced to flee their homes in the wake of Israel’s creation in 1948 is on one of the most emotional issues at the heart of Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The refugee issue has been a big obstacle in peace talks. Israel says their entry would be demographic suicide and expects refugees to be taken in by a future Palestinian state. Israel has absorbed large numbers of Jewish refugees over the decades including those who fled from Arab countries in 1948 and 1967.
Nimer Hammad, an adviser to the Palestinian president, said Abbas was being “realistic.”
“He knows he can’t bring back five-and-a-half million Palestinian refugees to Israel,” Hammad said.
During his interview, Abbas vowed to prevent another violent Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, like that of last decade.
“We don’t want to use terror…we want to use diplomacy, we want to use politics, we want to use negotiations, we want to use peaceful resistance,” he said.
The comments came as Abbas prepares for a trip to the United Nations later this month, where he will seek an upgraded observer status for the Palestinians at the UN. Palestinians believe the vote to be held over the issue will force Israel to withdraw from its current positions to lines it held before the 1967 war or face international legal action. Israel says negotiations alone will fix borders between it and any future Palestine.