Abbas backtracks on giving up right of return

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas backtracked on an interview with an Israeli television station in which he indicated that he would give up on his demand for the right of return, a key sticking point in stalled peace negotiations.


Abbas in an interview Friday night with Israel’s Channel 2 said that he would not demand the right to live in Safed, which he left in 1948, except as a tourist. He also said in the interview that he viewed a Palestinian state as existing only in the pre-1967 borders.

Abbas also promised that there would be no third Palestinian intifada while he remains in power, and called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to restart negotiations beginning from the premise that a Palestinian state would be formed in the West Bank and Gaza with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

“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,” Abbas told Channel 2.  

On Saturday, Abbas clarified in an interview with the Arabic al-Hayat newspaper out of Egypt that he was speaking about himself when referring to the Palestinian right of return and not about the policy of the Palestinian Authority.

At the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu referred to the interview. “I watched President Abbas’ interview over the weekend. I have heard that he has already managed to go back on his remarks. This only proves the importance of direct negotiations without pre-conditions. Only in direct negotiations will it be possible to clarify what the true positions are,” Netanyahu said. “Generally, I can say that if Abu Mazen is really serious and intends to advance peace, as far as I am concerned, we can sit together immediately. Jerusalem and Ramallah are only seven minutes apart; I am ready to start negotiations today.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres called Abbas’ interview “a brave and important public declaration.”

Abbas, Peres said,”has proven through his deeds and his words that Israel has a real partner for peace. Abu Mazen rejects terrorism, guarantees that under his leadership he won’t allow the outbreak of a violent third intifada, understands that the solution to the Palestinian refugee issue cannot be in Israel’s territory and to the detriment of Israel’s character, and stretches out his hand to Israel to restart negotiations.”

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