SOUTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel was standing in the way of any peace deal because it was perpetuating its “military occupation” and kept “expanding settlements.”
Abbas was speaking Friday at a regional World Economic Forum conference in Jordan. Former Israeli president Shimon Peres was also attending the conference and the two were photographed talking and shaking hands.
The Palestinian leader said he remained committed to setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel, in the lands Israel captured in the Six Day War in 1967. He said that “what prevents the achievement of this desire is Israel’s continuation of its occupation and settlement activity and imposing realities on the ground.”
Speaking at the same conference, former Israeli president Shimon Peres said that there is a “clear majority” of Israelis who back a two-state solution to the conflict.
“Reaching a diplomatic solution is possible, necessary and urgent,” he said. “What’s clear is that nobody can freeze the situation. The status quo is not an option.”
On Thursday, top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Israel was “not a partner for peace” and blasted the new Israeli cabinet, saying it has “shown its commitment to consolidate an apartheid regime.”
Erekat made the statements following a meeting with High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, who was in the region to try to jump-start the long-stagnant peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Mogherini on Wednesday that he was committed to a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
“I don’t support a one-state solution — I don’t believe that’s a solution at all,” the prime minister said in comments ahead of their private meeting. “I support the vision of two states for two peoples — a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state — and I look forward to discussing with you how we can advance that vision forth in a practical, secure and responsible way. I know that you share our goal and we see you as a friend who can help advance it.”
Netanyahu said last week that Israel would pursue a diplomatic “settlement” with the Palestinians while working with regional states to attain such a goal.
The prime minister was widely criticized by opponents at home and internationally after telling a reporter on March 16 — the day before Israelis went to the polls — that he would not preside over the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu later walked back the remarks, saying that he did support a “sustainable, peaceful two-state solution,” but the White House indicated it would only believe him if his words were backed up by actions.
Also on Thursday, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, the country’s de facto top diplomat, told Israeli diplomats not to hesitate in asserting to their foreign counterparts that the entire Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.
In an unapologetic speech to incoming Foreign Ministry employees, Likud lawmaker Tzipi Hotovely said that “the time has come to tell the world that we’re right — not only smart.”
Hotovely, who favors the annexation of the West Bank and opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, told envoys, “We must return to the basic truth about our right to the land.”