Abbas: Jerusalem Must Be Capital of Palestinian State

Palestinian president hints Palestinians may pursue international recognition if Israel continues settlement construction.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state.

Speaking in Ramallah, he said that “Al-Quds [the Arabic name for Jerusalem] and everything that was conquered in the 1967 war is part of the Palestinian state.” Abbas was addressing a delegation of East Jerusalem Arabs at an event commemorating 49 years since the foundation of the Fatah organization.

Abbas emphasized that foreign ministers from the supervisory committee of the Arab League, meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry this week, will tell Kerry that no peace agreement will be reached without East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.

His words came following declarations by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, revealed in Haaretz on Friday, that he would not agree to any reference to Jerusalem in the framework document being drawn up by Kerry.

Netanyahu clarified that he will stick to this position, even if it leads to an end in the negotiations.

According to Abbas, the negotiations are limited to nine months, after which the Palestinians are free of any obligations, hinting at the Palestinian promise not to pursue further international recognition in the Palestinian state while talks are in motion.

He added that “if Israel insists on continuing with [settlement] construction and disregarding understandings, the Palestinians will be free to disregard those obligations.”

Abbas added there is no basis for Israel’s claims that the release of prisoners gives it the right to continue building.

“This is a lie,” he said. “There is no connection between the two issues. Our response to the construction will follow in 48 hours.”

Responding to Netanyahu’s demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, Abbas said, “We won’t agree to this, as we’ve explained before, since 1917 [the Balfour Declaration].

“The right of return is a personal right that no leader can concede. Refugees must be given options to choose from. We’ll continue our struggle to obtain an independent state in the 1967 borders, until our children raise the Palestinian flag over the mosques and churches of Jerusalem.”

Abbas also committed to releasing all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

He added that he is ready for an inter-Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, that will take effect immediately, with the establishment of a government of technocrats and forthcoming elections.

This does not conflict with the peace negotiations with Israel, he insisted.

“Gaza is part of Palestine, and Hamas knows that I don’t yield to pressure,” Abbas stated.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014.Credit: AP

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