Abbas: I’m not asking for ‘right of return’ for Palestinians

Cnaan Liphshiz

SCHEVENINGEN, the Netherlands (JTA) — Adopting a moderate tone, Mahmoud Abbas assured Dutch Jews that he neither intends to abandon the Oslo Accords nor insist on the absorption of millions of Palestinians into Israel.

“We never said we were going to cancel the Oslo Accords,” Abbas said Friday during a meeting near The Hague with members of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, Dutch Jewry’s main pro-Israel advocacy organ and watchdog on anti-Semitism. “We are not going to cancel, we will not cancel anything,” he added, as long as “Israel respects its obligations.”

On Sept. 30, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Abbas said during a speech: “We cannot continue to be bound by these signed agreements with Israel” because “the status quo cannot continue.”

At the meeting, Abbas also said he and the Palestinian Authority “never asked anyone to boycott Israel,” but only to boycott settlement products. Asked about what Ramallah calls the “right of return” of several million Palestinians to what is today Israel proper, he said: “I am not asking for a right of return for six million Palestinians; I want a solution for them.”

CIDI Director Hanna Luden told Abbas of “serious concern about incitement, including by yourself, in saying that Israel wants to build a third temple on the Temple Mount.” Abbas answered that he was willing to address incitement “both by Israel and by Palestinians” under U.S. brokerage, but that Israel was unwilling to.

Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator who also attended the meeting, said, “Judaism is for us not a threat; it’s an asset.”

Abbas said Israel has been “violating the status quo” on the Temple Mount “since 2000, when [former prime minister Ariel] Sharon invaded it.” He was referring to Sharon visiting the Temple Mount with a group of Likud Knesset members shortly before the outbreak of the second intifada.

Abbas also said at CIDI meeting that Israel and Hamas were conducting “direct negotiations here in Europe, in a country which I will not name,” and indirect talks until last month, through Tony Blair, a former prime minister of Britain.

In the Netherlands, Abbas is scheduled to meet King Willem-Alexander and speak with International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda about “grave Israeli escalation in occupied Palestine,” Palestinian officials said.

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