Palestinians Will Resume Peace Talks With Israel After UN Recognition of State, Abbas Says

Palestinian Authority president tells meeting of Israeli intellectuals who support UN bid 'we don't want to delegitimize Israel. We want to legitimize ourselves'; stresses negotiations are top priority.

Security coordination with Israel would continue even after the United Nations' expected recognition of a Palestinian state later this month, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas promised on Monday.

"We don't want to isolate Israel but to live with it in peace and security," Abbas said, adding that the PA had been pushing Arab states to recognize Israel.

Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu - AP - 05092011

"We don't want to delegitimize Israel. We want to legitimize ourselves," the PA president declared during an address to a group of some 20 Israeli intellectuals who had sought the meeting to urge him to proceed with his UN bid despite their own government's objections. Journalists were also invited to attend.

Currently, Abbas said, the PA and Israel "have good coordination to prevent terror and keep the situation calm and quiet. We will continue to do our job. Security will prevail as long as I am in office."

On Sunday, he added, he had stressed to his Fatah party's Revolutionary Council that security was important to the Palestinians as well as to Israel.

If the United Nations did recognize a Palestinian state, Abbas pledged, he would then return to negotiations on the details of a final-status agreement.

"Our first, second and third priority is negotiations," he said. "There is no other way to solve this. No matter what happens at the United Nations, we have to return to negotiations."

These talks would cover all final-status issues, including "an end to the conflict," Abbas added, responding to allegations that the Palestinians weren't really interested in ending the conflict.

Abbas related that on August 24, he had met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Amman. The meeting, the PA president said, had been his second with Barak over the last year, noting that Barak had also met several times with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Abbas declined, however, to divulge details of his talks with Barak beyond saying they had discussed both day-to-day issues and the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Abbas also confirmed that he had met with President Shimon Peres three times over the past year, in Rome, London and Amman, and was supposed to have held a fourth meeting that failed to materialize. He advised the reporters present to ask Peres if they wanted to know why.

Abbas listed three reasons for his decision to go the United Nations this month: U.S. President Barack Obama's statement last September that he hoped a Palestinian state would have arisen by this September; the support for establishing a Palestinian state by this date among the Quartet (comprising the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia); and the Palestinians' own assertion that they would have completed their institutional preparations for statehood by this month.

The PA, he added, was indeed now fully prepared for statehood.

Abbas also accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of having rejected numerous Palestinian proposals on various final-status issues, saying that had made negotiations impossible.

As usual with Israeli visitors to his Ramallah headquarters, Abbas was a gracious host, even agreeing to be photographed with each of the visiting intellectuals individually at the start of the meeting, which lasted more than two hours.

The Israeli participants included authors Klil Zisapel, Savyon Liebrecht and Yoram Kaniuk, artists Dani Karavan and David Tartakover, former MK Yael Dayan, professors Yaron Ezrahi and Yehuda Bauer, and former ambassadors Ilan Baruch and Alon Liel. The group's initiator, author Sefi Rachlevsky, insisted that they represented hundreds of other Israelis who wanted their own government and the rest of the world to recognize a Palestinian state.