The following are excerpts from Al-Dustour's summary of the briefing:(1)
We Oppose the Concept of a Jewish State
"In Abbas's opinion, the Annapolis summit gave a boost to the political peace process, which we would like to see proceed according to the Road Map plan, incorporating the Arab [i.e. Saudi] initiative and U.S. President George Bush's vision. [The Road Map] calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state and an end of the occupation of the territories occupied in 1967. It is well known that the Road Map plan has become international [i.e. U.N. Security Council] Resolution No. 1515.
"However, while we cannot say that any significant results have been achieved so far, we are on our way, and aspire to reach a satisfactory solution before the end of 2008 – [a solution] that will end the conflict and ensure peace in the Middle East. Abbas added that when such a solution is reached, it will be presented to the Palestinian people, so that it can express its opinion. If [the Palestinian people] accept the plan, well and good! If they reject it, this will mean that they reject us [as well].
"Abbas stressed that he is opposed to the so-called 'Jewish state,' saying, We already rejected such a proposal at the Annapolis summit, last November in the U.S. [In fact,] the summit almost broke up over this issue. We were asked at the time [to agree] that the summit's concluding statement should refer to the Jewish state – but we categorically objected to this..."
The Rockets Are of No Use to the Palestinians; They Are a Pretext for Israel's [Actions]
"[Abbas said that] incidents are occuring on a daily basis. Today, for example, 10 Palestinians were martyred, and people crossed the border into Egypt as a result of the siege. [Furthermore,] rockets are being fired from the Gaza strip, [an action] I believe to be totally useless – in fact, they serve Israel as an pretext for sending planes and tanks [into Gaza] to raze the [residents'] mud huts to the ground. [Israel] responds to each rocket with planes, tanks, and men of war.
"We have proposed stopping the rockets if Israel stops its acts of aggression. This [proposal] was implemented both in 2003 and in 2005. Prior to the [Hamas] coup [in Gaza], I came to an agreement with Isma'il Haniya regarding a calm [tahdiah], if Israel refrained from all its activities. At the same time, I spoke to Olmert and told him that [the firing of the] rockets had been stopped. He replied: We, too, will stop the bombings.
"It often happens that a rocket explodes either in the hands of those who are about to fire it or in Palestinian territory; at other times, it may explode in Israeli territory, annoying an Israeli or a child – and, naturally, this is enough [for the Israelis] to punish the entire Palestinian people...
"As for the Rafah crossing – it must be reopened immediately, as stipulated in an international agreement [signed by] five parties: the U.S., Europe, Israel, Egypt and us [the Palestinians]... This agreement must be [re-implemented], and all the rest of the crossings must be open as well, so that the Palestinians will be independent. [If this does not happen,] Gaza will be thrown to the Egyptians – [an outcome] that we do not want..."
I Am Against the Armed Struggle; However, in Future Stages Things may Change
"About the resistance, Abbas said: It was I who, in 1965, had the honor of firing the first bullet. Many people, locally and abroad, know the resistance for what it is, how and under what circumstances it brings pride – and when it does not, what benefit can be derived from it, and what constitutes serious, genuine, and effective resistance. It is also commonly known when resistance may cause harm, and when the time, place, and circumstances are auspicious.
"[Abbas continued:] We [Fatah] had the honor of leading the resistance. We instructed everyone, including Hizbullah, as to what the resistance means. They were educated in our camps... At this time, I object to the armed struggle, since we are unable to conduct it; however, in future stages things may change..."
Jerusalem and a Comprehensive Arrangement
"Mahmoud Abbas stressed that the current negotiations include several issues: Jerusalem, the refugees, water, and regional security – i.e. the security arrangements between the Palestinian state, Israel, and other countries in the region. This time, a permanent solution will involve numerous interests of the Arab states, and therefore, these states must have a part in [reaching] the solution.
"For example, the refugee [question] is relevant to Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Palestine, since half the residents of the [future] Palestinian state are refugees; hence, these countries must monitor [the process] and take part in the negotiations. We cannot make decisions [regarding these issues] without the presence of the countries that are affected [by them].
"Regarding [the problem of] water – a solution must be found jointly with the Israelis. [This problem] also includes the issue of the waters of the Jordan River – since several countries share these waters, they should monitor the negotiations and receive updates regarding the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean...
"Neither is Jerusalem an exclusively Palestinian issue – it is an Arab-Muslim issue, and all Arab and Muslim countries should be updated about the negotiations regarding it, so that a solution can be found before long. I hope that we will reach a desired solution in 2008 – the U.S. president would like to reach one in the [near] future...
"There cannot be a solution without Jerusalem, and there is no point dragging this issue out. All six central issues must be addressed [simultaneously]: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, security, and water. They must all be discussed as a whole, and the discussion of any of them should not be postponed, since a delay would spell the end, death and perdition. This is why we object to a solution involving a state with temporary borders: this would constitute a delay, and would therefore seal the fate of the issue as a whole...
"Abu Mazen went on to say: If we do not reach a solution by 2008, it will be very difficult to find one at all, especially since by the end of [this year], there will be a new administration in the U.S. – with which we will set out on a new route, and only Allah knows where that will take us... Abbas added that the negotiations with the Israelis are not easy; difficulties arise because they [Israelis] want to gobble up the whole cake, while we want to negotiate. If we get anywhere, we will conduct a public opinion poll."
Reversing the [Hamas] Coup [in Gaza], Early Elections
"We are trying to reach an agreement that would end the current situation [in the Palestinian domestic arena]. However, there is no other way but to reverse the [Hamas] coup [in Gaza] and to commit to the legitimate Palestinian [institutions, i.e. the PLO], to the legitimate Arab [institutions], and to the legitimate international [institutions, i.e. the U.N.] – whereupon we will proceed to early elections.
"Several days ago, we were offered an initiative by Yemenite President 'Ali 'Abdallah Saleh [regarding the termination of the conflict with Hamas], which I believe conforms to [these principles]. We have accepted it, and we hope that Hamas's response will be positive as well, so that we can reorganize the Palestinian people...
"The main [elements] of this initiative are reinstating the pre-coup status quo, committing to the legitimate Palestinian [institutions, i.e. the PLO], to the legitimate Arab [institutions], and to the legitimate international [institutions, i.e. the U.N.], and proceeding towards early presidential and legislative council elections...
"We will go to the Palestinian people once again, and if they again choose Hamas, I will be the first to relinquish both the presidency and the legislative council – since Palestinian democracy is the best in the world..."
I Never Asked Hamas to Recognize Israel
"As regards recognizing Israel, Abbas said: I never asked Hamas to recognize Israel; I only asked this of the national unity government, which maintained contacts with Israel. This is what I said to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and he supported me. Hamas ran in the elections on the basis of the Oslo accords, which recognize Israel. Nor am I the only one to demand recognition of Israel: indeed, the Arab initiative – which enjoys an Arab Muslim consensus – is prepared to [recognize Israel] if it withdraws from all territories occupied since 1967..."
(1) Al-Dustour (Jordan), February 28, 2008.