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Abbas: Due to Holocaust, PA won’t ask Germany to pressure Israel

In interview on eve of Berlin visit, Palestinian leader says international community affirms he has ‘made no mistakes’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 11, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 11, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

Aware of Germany’s commitment to Israel in light of the Holocaust, the Palestinians will not ask Berlin to abandon its traditionally pro-Israel position, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on the eve of a visit to the German capital.

“We know history. We will not demand that Germany put more pressure on Israel,” Abbas told Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading newsmagazine. However, he noted that Berlin supports Palestinian statehood and called upon Chancellor Angela Merkel to “use her good friendship with Israel to promote peace.”

Abbas, accused by many Israelis of Holocaust denial due to his 1982 doctoral dissertation about the “secret relationship between Nazism and Zionism,” in 2014 called the German mass killings of Jews “the most heinous crime” against humanity of the modern era.

Abbas is due to meet with Merkel in Berlin Tuesday to seek support for a French initiative to hold an international peace conference in Paris this summer, a plan rejected by Israel.

In the interview, Abbas asked the world not to neglect the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in light of other issues on the international agenda. “Of course we notice that the instability of the whole region is having an effect on interest in the Palestinian issue. But the world must not forget us,” he said.

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be solved first. Many terrorists use the conflict as a cover. They claim that they are supporting our struggle. But this is not true. We condemn their deeds. But if we don’t find a solution to the conflict soon, I fear the violence of these terrorist groups will spread and affect us in our territories and in Israel.”

Abbas, who has been heading the PA since 2005, said he is open to new elections and will not seek another term in office. “I am willing to have elections at any time, but Hamas refuses it,” he said.

The PA’s security cooperation with the Israeli army is “functioning well,” he said. “Hamas is trying to sabotage things, but we have the situation under control.”

Asked whether only Israel is at fault for the current stalemate in the peace process or whether he also erred, Abbas replied that the international community regularly attests that he has done no wrong. “I am constantly asking the Americans and Europeans: What are my mistakes? They confirm that I made no mistakes. It is the Israeli side which misses all the chances for peace.”

US President Barack Obama right) greets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during their bilateral meeting at UN headquarters, September 24, 2013. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama (right) greets PA Abbas during their bilateral meeting at UN headquarters, September 24, 2013. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Abbas offered instead to “reaffirm our recognition of the State of Israel based on the two-state solution.”

The Palestinian leader asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “sit with me at the table and negotiate,” adding that he does not have any preconditions for the launch of peace talks. But then he added, “We only want a temporary building stop in the settlements while these talks are taking place.”

Said Abbas: “The Israelis are telling us it is not the right time for a two-state solution. But when is this moment? The right time is now and not tomorrow or any time in the future. We want to coexist with them. But the Israelis don’t want that. They want to separate themselves from us and prefer not to see us.”

Screen capture from security footage of a Palestinian woman pulling a knife out of her purse to stab a security guard at the entrance to Beitar Illit in the southern West Bank, November 8, 2015. (Screen capture)
Screen capture from security footage of a Palestinian woman pulling a knife out of her purse to stab a security guard at the entrance to Beitar Illit in the southern West Bank, November 8, 2015. (Screen capture)

The current wave of attacks against Israelis does not constitute an intifada, Abbas insisted, adding that the violent acts are carried out by young Palestinians who have experienced “the violence and humiliation of the occupation on a daily basis” and now see increased settlement activity. “If Israel stops this, no child will take a knife to attack Israelis.”

He added, “I am against these attacks and I have said this over and over again.” But if a young Palestinian loses hope, “then he or she doesn’t care if I condemn their deeds.”

Confronted by the interviewer over his visits to relatives of assailants and the condolence letters he sends them, he argued that the PA supports “socially” the families of killed Palestinians. “It does not mean that we support what they did.”

Even though he does not encourage the use of violence, anyone who dies at the hands of Israeli security forces is called a martyr, Abbas added. “This is our tradition.”

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