Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday in an interview with Channel 2 that the Arab world erred in rejecting the United Nations' 1947 plan to partition Palestine into a Palestinian and a Jewish state.
The Palestinian and Arab refusal to accept a UN plan to partition the then-British-controlled mandate of Palestine sparked widespread fighting, then Arab military intervention after Israel declared independence the following year. The Arabs lost the war.
"It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Channel 2 TV in a rare interview to the Israeli media. "But do they (the Israelis) punish us for this mistake for 64 years?"
Abbas also contended that he and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were "very, very close" to reaching a peace agreement in 2008, before the Israeli leader left office under a cloud of corruption allegations.
"It was a very good opportunity," he said. "If he stayed two, three months, I believe that time we could have concluded an agreement."
He confirmed Olmert's account that the Israeli leader was prepared to withdraw from 93.5 percent of the West Bank. The Palestinians, Abbas added, responded by offering to let Israel retain 1.9 percent of the West Bank.
Peace talks stalled three years ago and last month, Abbas bypassed bilateral negotiations to ask the UN to recognize an independent state of Palestine.
In his TV interview, Abbas acknowledged the Palestinians might not be able to muster the necessary nine votes in the 15-member Security Council to approve the statehood bid. But majority support would be a moot point, anyway, because the United States has threatened to veto the statehood petition, which Israel also opposes, reasoning that only negotiations can yield a Palestinian state.