Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was met Thursday at his Ramallah compound by hundreds of cheering supporters during a ceremony marking his return from a trip to the United States, where he met with US President Barack Obama.
“We carried the deposit, and we are guarding the deposit,” Abbas told supporters cryptically, according to official Palestinian news agency Wafa. “You know all the conditions and circumstances, and I say to you that capitulating is not a possibility.”
The “deposit” could refer to land Palestinians want for a state, or the right of return for Palestinian refugees, but Abbas did not specify.
During Monday’s meeting in Washington, Obama told Abbas that he would have to make tough political decisions and take “risks” for peace, as would Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Abbas, for his part, reiterated his rejection of Israel’s demand that its status as a Jewish state be enshrined in a future peace accord, asserting that previous Palestinian recognition of Israel was sufficient.
“Everyone understands the outlines of what a peace deal would look like,” Obama said, describing an agreement that reflected the pre-1967 lines with agreed land swaps.
Sitting next to the president, Abbas spoke through a translator, thanking Obama for the opportunity to come to the White House and for the “economic and political support the US is extending to the Palestinian state so it can stand on its own feet.”
He outlined the Palestinian positions for negotiations, including “working for a solution that is based on international legitimacy and also the borders — the 1967 borders — so that the Palestinians can have their own independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital and so that we can find a fair and lasting solution to the refugee problem.”
Meanwhile Thursday, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry notified Abbas that it is prepared to apply for full membership in international institutions if Israel fails to complete the fourth and final release of Palestinian prisoners jailed before the signing of the Oslo Accords, scheduled for March 29.
Israel agreed to release 104 such prisoners in four stages over the nine-month negotiating period, in return for a Palestinian commitment not to apply for membership in international bodies.
But a number of Israeli cabinet members, including Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, have publicly opposed the final release, which the Palestinians want to include 14 Israeli citizens. Reuters reported on Tuesday that Israel notified Abbas that it would not carry out the release if Abbas refuses to extend negotiations past their April deadline.
Rebecca Shimoni Stoil and AP contributed to this report.