Abbas backs demilitarized Palestinian state, says funds better spent on schools

Palestinian leader tells Israeli academics: ‘I want unarmed police forces with batons, not guns’

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas attends a mass wedding ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah on August 18, 2018. (Flash90)
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas attends a mass wedding ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah on August 18, 2018. (Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday said he believed a future Palestinian state should be demilitarized, offering rare backing for a key Israeli demand in any peace deal.

Abbas told a group of visiting Israeli academics that he preferred devoting funds to education and institutions than to an army, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

“I support a state along the 1967 borders without an army. I want unarmed police forces with batons, not guns,” Abbas said in Ramallah, according to the radio report. “Instead of warplanes and tanks, I prefer to build schools and hospitals and allocate funds and resources to social institutions.”

An associate of Abbas confirmed to Kan that Abbas had made the comments, and said that his words were in line with his previously stated positions.

Head of the opposition Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni speaks at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on August 8, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni confirmed that Abbas had voiced support for a demilitarized Palestinian state in peace negotiations she held with him between 2013-2014, during Netanyahu’s third government. Those negotiations, shepherded by then US secretary of state John Kerry, eventually fell through.

A 2013 Haaretz report quoted Abbas as saying an Palestinian state would be demilitarized. In 2014 he told The New York Times that he envisioned NATO forces acting as border guards and combating smuggling.

“We will be demilitarized,” he said then. “Do you think we have any illusion that we can have any security if the Israelis do not feel they have security?”

Israel has long demanded that any Palestinian state be demilitarized. The PA currently has a US-trained security force with small arms to maintain civil control in Palestinian cities.

Palestinian Authority security forces touring Israeli-controlled Hebron in uniform on July 31, 2018 (Credit: Wafa)

There have been no serious negotiations for a peace deal since talks failed in 2014.

The Trump administration has long been working on a Middle East peace plan, though it has closely guarded details of its proposal. Trump officials have said they are finishing the plan and working on rolling it out, but have not offered any timeline.

Washington officials have said that neither Israelis nor Palestinian would be “fully pleased” with the plan.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that he saw “no urgency” in advancing US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

“It is his business if he wants to promote it,” Netanyahu told reporters. “He occasionally comments on the matter, and it may come, though I see no urgency in the matter.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before holding direct peace talks at the State Department in Washington, DC, Sept. 2, 2010. (Jason Reed-Pool/Getty Images via JTA)

Even before the release of the plan, the Palestinian Authority, which is boycotting the administration, has rejected the attempt to jump-start talks.

The Palestinian leader’s frustration with the White House dates back to last December, when Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and set in motion plans to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. The embassy was opened in May.

Since Trump’s announcement, PA officials have refused to meet with members of Trump’s cabinet, declaring them as having relinquished their capacity to act as an honest mediator in negotiations.

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