Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he was ready to resume peace negotiations with Israel without preconditions, in a marked departure from comments made last month ruling out the possibility of negotiating a two-state solution while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in power.
In an interview with the pan-Arab media outlet al-Arab from Ramallah, Abbas expressed his support for a two-state solution and peace with Israel: “I tell the Israeli people: our hands are outstretched to exist in two states. I hope that you do not cut down the outstretched hand of peace, because the alternative will be devastating for everyone.”
Abbas said that he had “no problem” returning to negotiations with Netanyahu as the representative of the Israeli people — “without preconditions.”
US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled last year after a nine-month effort when Abbas agreed to sign a unity pact with Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas, and amid a dispute over prisoner releases and settlements.
The PA president also said that popular uprising against Israel was a legitimate form of resistance to occupation, and that while Palestinians recognize Israel as a sovereign state, they would not recognize it as a Jewish one –a key demand put forth by Netanyahu. Abbas added that he was in no way hostile towards Jews, and that whenever he met with various Jewish delegations in Israel or abroad, he makes a point of clarifying this.
Abbas warned that the Islamic extremism and terrorism that has engulfed much of the Middle East in recent years could soon reach Israel unless a solution was found to the “issue of Palestine.”
He called on Israel to adopt the Arab Peace Initiative, a Saudi-led plan that would see Israel withdraw to the 1967 lines in exchange for normalized ties with Muslim states.
In addition to the United States, Abbas said that the Palestinians now require Jordan and Egypt to participate in mediating any future peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas confirmed the existence of indirect dialogue between Israel and high-ranking officials from the Islamic group Hamas.
According to Abbas, Hamas theoretically approved an Israeli diplomatic initiative calling for a Palestinian state in Gaza with land annexed from the neighboring Egyptian Peninsula of Sinai.
The Palestinian leader also said that he worked tirelessly to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas during the 50-day war last summer, and said that his call to Hamas to unconditionally stop all rocket fire into Israel fell on deaf ears.
A day before elections last month, Netanyahu said that a Palestinian state would not be established on his watch should he be reelected, warning that any areas that came under Palestinian rule could subsequently become a Hamas stronghold. Asked directly during an interview whether no Palestinian state would be created under his leadership, the prime minister answered: “Indeed.” After the elections, Netanyahu backtracked, and said he still supported “a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution.”