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Abbas says ‘I choose you, Netanyahu,’ as peace partner, but…

Call for partnership hinges on Israel’s acceptance of Palestinian preconditions

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be his “partner for peace” and to bring  negotiations back to the table, in a speech in Tunisia on Monday.

“I choose you, Netanyahu,” Abbas said. “With whom else can we make peace? You are the Israeli prime minister and I am forced to work with you.”

Despite his proffering of the olive branch, Abbas set preconditions to sitting down with Netanyahu, namely, cessation of settlement construction, release of all Palestinian security detainees in Israeli prisons, and acceptance of a two state solution.

“You must also choose between settlements and peace, for those who want peace do not think of settlements,” Abbas said.

If Israel does not agree to the preconditions, Abbas said, “we will continue to stand firm and stay in our homes. The most important thing is that we stay in our homes and not leave them as happened in 1948, or as happened in part in 1967. We won’t leave our homes.”

Abbas warned that, should Israel reject his offer for resuming talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, “we may go back to the United Nations Security Council to try and get Palestine full member status.”

Two weeks ago, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad backed out of a meeting with Netanyahu in which he was to present a letter from Abbas encouraging new negotiations.

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