WASHINGTON – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the J Street 2021 National Conference on Sunday that moving away from a two-state solution would lead to a "de facto apartheid one-state solution," calling this something neither the Palestinians nor the world would accept.
"We are ready to resume peace negotiations with our Israeli counterpart on the basis of international legitimacy, resolutions and signed agreements and under the auspices of the International Quartet," Abbas said.
Abbas told J Street that the Palestinians support a two-state solution based on pre-June 1967 borders based on international law, creating an independent and sovereign state with East Jerusalem as its capital — a demand the U.S. President Joe Biden administration has not publicly supported to date.
He noted that Palestinian contacts with the Trump administration had ceased when the former U.S. president "renounced the rules of international law and opted for forcing unilateral measures under the 'Deal of the Century.'" Ababs added that the Palestinians have resumed cooperation with the Biden administration "which declared commitment to the two-state solution in accordance with international law."
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He also praised the Biden administration's rejection of unilateral actions and desire to restore bilateral relations with the Palestinians.
The Biden administration earlier this month announced $150 million in aid for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN agency supporting more than five million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, as well as $75 million in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza, and $10 million for peacebuilding programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development.
"We seek to develop and strengthen bilateral relations with the new U.S. administration for the common interest of both countries and the interest of peace and prosperity in our region," Abbas said, clarifying that "this requires the elimination of some obstacles."
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The Palestinian president specifically highlighted removing the PLO from the terrorism list pursuant to the Congress Anti-Terrorist Act of 1987, saying that the Oslo Accords specify that "the PLO and Israel have to mutually recognize each other and U.S.-Palestinian relations were established in the spheres of politics, security, economy and combating terrorism in our region and worldwide."
Abbas asked for J Street's assistance in lobbying Congress and the Biden administration to "repeal all laws that block the road toward enhancing Palestinian-U.S. relations," adding that the Palestinians will "remove all obstacles" to achieve this goal, potentially referring to the Palestinian Authority's payments to prisoners in Israeli prisons. "The continuity of these laws is frustrating and unconstructive," he added.
Abbas noted that 2021 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Madrid talks that launched the Middle East peace process, as well as the twenty-eighth anniversary of the Oslo Accords. "Neither led to coexistence and good neighborly relations between Palestine and Israel on pre-June 1967 borders," he said, adding that "three decades have passed since Oslo while the Palestinian situation under the Israeli military occupation continues to deteriorate."
The Palestinian president said his government was working hard to build Palestinian national institutions based on the "rule of law, transparency, democracy, and the dissemination of the culture of peace." He also said his government was "incessantly working to conduct general elections in all Palestinian territories," noting that elections would take place on the basis of respect for international law. Abbas previously called for the first Palestinian legislative elections in 15 years to take place on May 22, followed by a presidential election in July.
Olmert: 'We should meet as equals'
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also spoke at the conference, reiterating his support for the two-state solution, saying that he is a "firm believer that even today, if the two sides will sit together, then we can resolve this conflict on that basis."
Olmert said during his remarks that he and Abbas would have reached an agreement if he remained prime minister for a few more years, noting that the basic parameters can be easily agreed upon and the difficulties lie with implementation.
"What we need now is an Israeli prime minister to invite the president of the Palestinian Authority or vice versa. Israelis and the Palestinians should meet as equals, we have to meet on the same basis," Olmert said.
"We need a change in the attitude of the government of Israel — the present government of Israel is unwilling to do it — but I believe that hopefully soon, the government will change it will be possible and the Palestinians will have to adapt themselves to this framework," he said.