Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas assailed Israel on Tuesday, claiming it has never missed an opportunity to sabotage the American-led talks on an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
Israel, he charged in an address to the Arab League in Kuwait, continually violates the international community’s decisions on the Palestinian issue, as well as bilateral agreements and understandings. It is accelerating settlement construction on the one hand, while destroying houses in Palestinian villages and neighborhoods of East Jerusalem on the other, and also killing Palestinian civilians, he said.
Recently, Abbas claimed, Israel has begun implementing the most dangerous plan of all – a division of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque between Jews and Muslims, similar to the arrangement it instituted at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.
The Hebron site, known by Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs, has sections for both Jewish and Muslim worship. Jewish activists have long demanded a similar arrangement on the Temple Mount, where Al-Aqsa is located, but the current Israeli government, like its predecessors, has refused to do so.
Abbas also charged that during the past eight months of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Israel has refused to end the occupation and instead worked to perpetuate it. Rather than seeking to achieve a just and viable peace, he added, Israel has recently erected new obstacles to such a peace, like its demand for recognition as a Jewish state.
Abbas used his speech to present the Palestinian leadership’s negotiating principles: establishing a Palestinian state in the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital; ensuring Palestinian control over all of the new state’s territory, borders and natural assets; and solving the refugee problem on the basis of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and the Arab Peace Initiative.
With regard to the current peace talks, he said the Palestinians are waiting for a proposal that is based on the international community’s decisions and sets a clear timetable, one with no room for evasion or foot-dragging.
Abbas said he refused “to once again enter the maelstrom of agreements and formulations that Israel will bury with conditions and reservations and interpretations.” He then cited what he termed examples of such Israeli behavior, mentioning in particular the Israeli pledge to release four groups of long-serving Palestinian prisoners during the current negotiations. The last group is supposed to be released on March 28, but Israel has said that isn’t likely to happen unless the Palestinians agree to extend the negotiations beyond their scheduled end in late April.
“These are understandings formulated with the American administration, and Israel is shirking them,” he said. “This proves that Israel isn’t serious in the negotiations about withdrawing from the occupied territories and achieving peace.”
Abbas also stressed the importance of Arab economic aid to the PA. He urged Arab leaders to give the PA an economic safety net by carrying out a previous decision to grant it $100 million a month.
On Wednesday, Abbas is due to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Amman. Kerry will use the meeting to take another stab at convincing Abbas to accept an American framework for extending Israeli-Palestinian talks, which are currently slated to end in late April.
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