Abbas hails ‘peace-loving’ Arafat, says failure to reach deal will inflame region
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Abbas hails ‘peace-loving’ Arafat, says failure to reach deal will inflame region

PA president says accord will ‘extinguish all the fires,’ vows to demand ‘right of return,’ calls his predecessor a ‘source of optimism’

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a rally commemorating the fifth anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death in the West Bank city of Ramallah, 2009. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash 90, file)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a rally commemorating the fifth anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death in the West Bank city of Ramallah, 2009. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash 90, file)

PA President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that failure to secure a peace agreement with Israel would result in a violent escalation, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported.

Speaking to Palestinian TV ahead of the 10th anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, Abbas said that no peace accord “will worsen the situation in the already inflamed areas of the region,” while an agreement will “extinguish all the fires.”

Abbas also spoke highly of former PA, PLO and Fatah leader Arafat, calling him “a source of optimism,” as well as “pragmatic and peace-loving,” the report said.

“I remember a time after 1967, what was considered the collapse of the entire Arab nation, I went to Syria and found him [Arafat] in a car dressed in military garb and when I said to him, Abu Ammar the war is over and we lost, he said: ‘No, they were defeated not us,’ then he made up his mind to come to Palestine and he did,” Abbas recalled.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

The PA president added that the Palestinian leadership will defend the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees to Israel, and demand Jerusalem be the capital of a Palestinian state.

Abbas also reiterated his pledge to submit a resolution on Palestinian statehood to the UN Security Council, seeking an imposed deadline for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and accused Israel of stalling negotiations. He hailed Sweden for its recognition of Palestine on October 30, and urged other European nations to follow suit.

Abbas’s comments came amid increased unrest in Jerusalem, and as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett have repeatedly accused the Palestinian leader of fueling the violence in the capital with his rhetoric.

On Thursday, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki called for all sides to do more to calm tensions.

Responding to a question about Israeli claims of Palestinian incitement, Psaki said she did not know if cartoons posted on social media by Fatah bodies calling for new attacks were linked to Abbas or his Fatah movement and added that the US still viewed him as a peace partner.

“We would strongly condemn any incitement to violence,” she said.

Yasser Arafat in 2002 (photo credit: AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Yasser Arafat in 2002 (photo credit: AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Last Thursday, following the shooting of right-wing activist Yehudah Glick, Abbas said the closure of the Temple Mount to Muslim worshipers was tantamount to a “declaration of war.”

The Palestinian leader also praised the would-be assassin of Glick in a letter to the terrorist’s family, in which he referred to the shooter as a “martyr defending the rights of our people and its holy places.” The condolence letter drew fierce criticism from Israeli politicians across the political spectrum.

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