Abbas: We’ll work toward peace with whoever wins Israeli vote

Palestinian leader says Israel has eroded his authority as PLO moves to reconsider decades-old agreements with Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on December 14, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on December 14, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday that he was willing to work with whichever party wins the upcoming Israeli elections and that achieving peace is central to regional stability.

At the opening of a two-day meeting of the Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Abbas warned that the status quo of occupation in the West Bank is a provocation and cannot continue, the official WAFA news agency reported.

Abbas said Israel had eroded the authority of his self-rule government in the West Bank to the point where it has “no real power here over anything.”

Abbas asked the council — which consists of legislators, union leaders and other figures — to review interim agreements with Israel that created his autonomy government in the 1990s.

His request is likely intended as a warning to Israel at a time of heightened tensions. Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office declined comment.

On Sunday Arab media reported that US Secretary of State John Kerry asked Abbas to block the adoption of anti-Israeli decisions during the meeting.

Abbas said during the meeting that he would work consider as a peace partner whoever emerged as Israel’s leader after March 17 elections.

“We hope they treat us the same,” he said.

Abbas said the Arab Peace Initiative would be the best framework for peace talks.

“Now is the time for Israel to wake up from its sleep … the ball is in its court,” Abbas said.

Israel is scheduled to hold elections on March 17 and current opinion polls show the two leading contenders, the center-right Likud, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and center-left Zionist Union, led by opposition head Isaac Herzog, as being within two seats of each other, but with neither having an absolute majority.

At the gathering, Abbas also listed recent developments and advances toward Palestinian statehood including the recognition of an independent state by several European parliaments, among them Britain, Sweden, Spain, and Luxemburg.

The central council conference, the 27th of its kind, is a meeting of the highest governing body of the Palestinians.

According to London-based daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, the central council may vote on amending Palestinian relations with Israel responding to an Israeli decision to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian tax revenues.

Earlier this year, Israel withheld tax transfers to the cash-strapped Abbas government after he joined the International Criminal Court — a move potentially paving the way for a war crimes investigation of Israel

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