President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented Saturday on statements made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Israel's Channel 2, in which he said that as long as he remains in power, he will not allow a third intifada to break out.
"There is no connection between the Palestinian Authority chairman's statements and his actual actions," read a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office. Netanyahu's office said that his invitation to meet with Abbas without preconditions is still open.
"Abbas has been refusing to renew the negotiations with Israel for over four years, despite a series of steps taken by Prime Minister Netanyahu, such as the unprecedented freeze on settlement construction," the statement stressed. "In addition, Abbas has refused to discuss security arrangements needed to protect Israeli citizens."
In an interview with Israel's Channel 2 on Thursday, Abbas said that although he is a refugee from Safed, he does not intend to return to the city as a resident - if anything, he would visit as a tourist.
"Palestine for me is the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital, this is Palestine, I am a refugee, I live in Ramallah, the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine, everything else is Israel."
President Shimon Peres on Saturday praised the statements made by Abbas.
"His brave words prove that Abu Mazen (Abbas) is a real partner for peace," Peres said.
"[Abbas] rejects terrorism and has pledged that under his leadership, there will not be a third intifada," he said. "He understands that the solution to the refugee problem will not be on Israeli territory. These are statements of great importance," Peres said.
"Abbas' statements should be taken seriously. They are in line with the positions of most Israelis, who support the two-state solution. Israel is a peace-loving nation and as such we need to bravely extend our hand out in peace to a leader like Abbas, with whom Israel has a real hope for peace.
Channel 2's political correspondent Udi Segal, who interviewed Abbas, tweeted parts of the interview: "We will not go back to terrorism and violence," Abbas was quoted as saying. "We will only operate through diplomacy and through peaceful means."
During the interview, Abbas addressed accusations put forth by Netanyahu and his administration, who recently claimed that Abbas' true objective is a state within the 1948 borders. Netanyahu's advisers laid that claim following a post the PA president published on his Facebook page.
In his Twitter account, Segal added that Abbas stressed that the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, has not resigned, contrary to recent reports. "I spoke to him yesterday and he had no such intention," Abbas said in the interview.
Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich, trying to appeal to centrist voters, provided a temperate response to Abbas' comments. "A retreat to the borders of 1967 isn't acceptable," Yacimovich said. "The solution I accept is that of the Clinton plan according to which Israel would keep its major settlement blocks in exchange for territorial swaps, as was mentioned in the Abbas interview on Channel 2."
Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid political party, who just last week attacked Netanyahu and Lieberman for rejecting Abbas as a partner for peace, refused to answer questions regarding Abbas' interview.
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