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memri
December 5, 2014 No.
5898

'Abbas In Interview: Six Million Refugees Want To Return, And I Am One Of Them; Hamas And The MB Are Liars; Hillary Clinton Phoned Me And Asked Me To Persuade President Mubarak To Step Down

On November 30, 2014, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas gave an interview to the Egyptian daily Akhbar Al-Yawm, in which he addressed the stalemate in the negotiations with Israel and the Palestinian alternatives to the negotiations, including appealing to the UN, stopping the PA's security coordination with Israel and transferring responsibility for the Palestinian Authority to Israel.

In the interview, 'Abbas reiterated that he did not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, because this contradicted the Palestinian interests by harming Israeli Arabs and preventing the return of the Palestinian refugees. He said that there were six million Palestinian refugees wishing to return to their homes, and he was one of them, and that creative solutions had to be found for the refugee problem, because "we cannot close the door to those who wish to return."

Also in the interview, 'Abbas harshly criticized Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood (MB), calling them "a gang of liars." He said that Hamas was responsible for the outbreak of the fighting in Gaza in July 2014 and for the destruction of Gaza, because it had lied and refused to take responsibility for the killing of the three Israeli teens. He also condemned Hamas for rejecting the Egyptian ceasefire initiative, and said that, on the last day of the war, Hamas begged for a ceasefire with no reservations or conditions. In addition, 'Abbas accused Hamas of not being committed to the Palestinian reconciliation and of acting against Fatah members in order to thwart the reconciliation.

'Abbas did not spare criticism of the U.S. administration, slamming it for its policy towards Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). According to him, in a conversation with President Obama, he told the president that there was no such thing as "moderate MB members" and that the MB was the mother of all terrorist organizations, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda. He recounted that, when the January 25 revolution broke out in Egypt, then-State Secretary Hillary Clinton surprised him by asking him to convince then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to step down.

The following are translated excerpts from 'Abbas' statements in the interview:[1]


'Abbas in the Al-Akhbar interview room (image: Al-Akhbar, Egypt, November 30, 2014)

Netanyahu Demanded Israeli Presence In The Jordan Valley For Another 40 Years, So I Left His Home

Mahmoud 'Abbas said: "Working with Israel is very difficult, if not impossible. We are conducting mutual relations with people who don't believe in peace. You ask for peace, and they do not want it... Netanyahu said to me: I want [Israel to be responsible for] security on the Jordanian border for 40 years. I pretended to have misheard him, and asked: How many?! He said: 40 years. I bid him farewell and said, Let's shake hands [in farewell]. I left his home and said to him, This is occupation. I haven't seen him since...

"In principle, I do not oppose 1:1 land swaps. Take territory of known value, and give territory of the same value, so that the West Bank remains the same [size]. I negotiated with Olmert, who said: Let us swap land, and you will receive 20 extra kilometers in addition to the West Bank... but we did not [manage] to reach an agreement and he left[office, i.e. was voted out]... There is a basic condition for land swaps - Israel must recognize the June 4, 1967 border at a 1:1 ratio. For example, it is inappropriate for them to receive land in Jerusalem and give me [land] in the Negev [in exchange]."

We Will Live Alongside Israel In Peace And Security Only After We Receive Our Rights; I Will Not Take A Single Israeli Arab Into The Palestinian State

"Netanyahu once told me that it was an 'idea from hell,' from his perspective, for him to give me the Triangle and everything in it. [The Triangle] was occupied in 1949 and at that time it had 38,000 residents. Today, it probably has about 400,000 residents. I said: I will not take anyone. Forget it, because honestly, I will not allow, or force, any Arab to relinquish his Israeli citizenship. You might be surprised, but this is important. As far as I'm concerned, this is sacred. For example, in the fourth round of the release of our Palestinian prisoners, 15 of the 30 are 1948 Arabs [Israeli Arabs]. They told me: Take them to the West Bank and they will relinquish their citizenship. I told them: This is impossible. They should return to their homes and retain their citizenship. As far as I'm concerned, Arabs remaining citizens of Israel is a sacred matter...

"I don't want to destroy Israel and do not call for its destruction. We want to live with it in security and peace, but only after I receive my rights and you receive yours... In effect, we are approached by very concerned people who say: Why aren't you talking to Israel and Netanyahu? And I respond: I am ready to do it tomorrow morning. Bring him [here], I am ready. [But] he left and never returned."

Chances Are Small That I Will Succeed In Actualizing My Plan At The Security Council

"We want a state in the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, and we want to [set] a date to end the occupation. That is all we want. If Israel agrees to this now, we will go to negotiations. [But] they use deception and excel at media fraud. They claim that I am going to the Security Council in order to obtain a state, but all the [Security] Council does is give me a certificate; it doesn't give me territory. I will take the certificate and then go negotiate with them in order to realize it...

"Now the General Assembly has decided that the PA territory is occupied territory, [so] now we are like any occupied country that is subject to the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Geneva Conventions. Therefore, we intend to participate in the conference of signatory countries in Geneva next month [a conference that is to take place in December 2014 and deal with the situation in the West Bank] in order to implement this resolution.

"We decided in Arab League meetings that, beginning [December] 1, we would appeal to the Security Council. Anyone who wants to join us in this plan is welcome. The U.S., Europe, and France have a plan. Anyone who has a plan is welcome. [However,] chances that I can actualize my plan are small, because of two obstacles: The first is that nine countries must agree to it in order for the proposal to be brought to a vote in the Security Council. The second is that, even if we obtain the agreement of nine countries, we expect an American veto. The U.S. will not allow it...

"The Americans have always pressured, and will continue to pressure, to prevent us [Palestinians] from addressing the Security Council. Even though we are small and simple people, and need the entire world, including the U.S., we say: No! [to dropping our UN bid]. This has happened several times. When we addressed the General Assembly, they [the U.S.] fought us for three whole months, and even when we joined 20 international institutions, they [still] fought us, but that doesn't matter. It is more important that when we feel the need to say no, we say no.

We Have Not Benefitted From The Security Coordination With Israel, And I Want To End It

"If we cannot get what we want, there are other steps [we can take]. The first step is joining many international organizations, such as the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice. There are 520 international organizations, and [joining them] will surely bother everyone. If there is an appeal to the ICC, and a Palestinian files a lawsuit against an Israeli, they [the Israelis] get scared, because they are wanted and cannot travel."

"This step won't do much good, but we have two other steps: The first is ending all security coordination between us and them [i.e. Israel]. Currently, there is security coordination, and the comrades in Hamas see this as something they can accuse us about, but they themselves coordinated [with Israel] in 2012 during the era of [Egyptian president Mohammad] Mursi. We have been committed to this security coordination since the Oslo Accords. Now, when there is nothing between us, there is no problem to end the coordination, and there will be no ties, no security, and no talks with anyone.

"The last step, which bothers many of us since it is not understood - and which also bothers the Arabs but bothers the U.S. and Israel even more - is saying to Netanyahu: You are an occupation state, please take responsibility for the occupation. Many comrades tell me: Authority is an achievement. But I am not giving away authority. I am merely saying that I have no authority and that I have nothing. My job is just to pay [salaries]. I panhandle in order to pay clerks, and the health and education sectors, while the occupier has it all. I cannot continue like this. Take all this authority, and if you don't, let us talk of the peace that the world has approved - that is, a border between two countries and Jerusalem as our capital. The other details, such as refugees, security, and more, can be discussed later...

"We have not benefited from the security coordination, and I want to end it. I am working to defend my people and spare them from harm. In the past, Netanyahu backed down when I spoke of ending the security coordination.

"Even [General Security Services director] Yoram Cohen told Netanyahu that I am the partner and that I do not incite against Israel, either explicitly or implicitly. This is because we sat down with members of Israel's security forces and spoke honestly with them, and they felt that we were reliable in our demeanor and words and that we aspire to peace. They were convinced by our ideas, presented them to the prime minister, and told him we were honest..."

We Will Not Recognize A Jewish State So As Not To Damage The Right Of Return Or Harm Israeli Arabs

"We cannot recognize a Jewish state. We will stand against this enterprise, not out of obstinacy, but because it contradicts our interests. The first to suffer from this law would be the 1.5 million Arabs who would be no longer belong to Israel, due to their religion. The first to protest this law were the Druze...

"There is another reason. [Israel] will not allow the return of refugees. There are six million refugees who wish to return, and by the way, I am one of them. We need to find creative solutions because we cannot close the door to those who wish to return. Israel aspires to a Jewish state, and ISIS aspires to an Islamic state, and here we are, suspended between Jewish extremism and Islamic extremism. [ISIS leader]Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi will have an excuse to establish an Islamic state after the Jewish state law is approved. This is another matter from which we and everyone else suffer..."

I Explained To Obama That There Was No Such Thing As Moderate MB Members; Clinton Asked Me To Persuade Mubarak To Step Down

"In my recent visits to the U.S. and South Africa, I clarified to everyone that Egypt had saved us and the entire region from the terrorism in the region... In my recent meeting with Obama, he asked me about the situation in Egypt, and I explained to him that the process of democratization [there] was about to be completed. He asked me about the Brothers [i.e., the MB], and I explained to him that there was no such thing as Brothers there. Obama clarified, 'The moderate Brothers,' and I explained to him that the moderate Brothers are only in the U.S., but that they [i.e., the MB] were the ones who had created all the extremist organizations in the region, including ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and Al-Qaeda. All these terror organizations emerged from the belly of the MB. They will not return to [power in] Egypt again."

"From the outset, I never believed in the Arab Spring. One day, before the January 25 revolution, I was with then-president Hosni Mubarak, and when the events of January 25 began,[then-]U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton phoned me and asked me to phone president Mubarak and persuade him to step down. I asked, What do I have to do with the Egyptian matter?... We are facing chaos, the rise of the MB, or both.

"Mursi did not understand the Palestinian problem. His understanding of the subject was like my understanding of Japanese. He wanted to exploit it to actualize the interests of the MB. If you remember the Giora Eiland plan, he wanted to turn the Sinai territories into the Palestinian state, [and Mursi agreed to this plan].[2] [But] we will not agree to accept an inch of land from Egypt and will not agree that a Palestinian should leave his land...[Moreover,] Mursi wanted to establish a Gaza consulate in Egypt to deepen the internal Palestinian schism"

'Abbas also warned, "If the current situation continues as it is now, ISIS will also emerge in the West Bank. As for the Gaza Strip - the entire MB is ISIS."

The Tunnels Must Be Completely Destroyed; 1,800 Men In Gaza Have Gotten Rich From Them

'Abbas added: "I cannot ask Egypt to stop its military operation in the region [i.e., in Sinai], and we are aware of the nature of Egypt's national activity. We have no problem with the transfer of aid to Gaza via the [Rafah border] crossing, but I emphasize the need to destroy the tunnels once and for all. This has been my view for nine years, and I have asked Egypt many times to close the tunnels. In Gaza, 1,800 residents have become millionaires by utilizing the tunnels for their own interests. Likewise, they utilize the tunnels to act against Egypt by smuggling weapons and drugs, and [they also harm Egypt] by operating an industry of counterfeiting money and forging documents. The destruction of the tunnels is the answer that will put an end to these phenomena. I have many times proposed ideas for destroying the tunnels, for example, to flood them with water 30 meters deep - as deep as the tunnels. This should be done after destroying the homes with tunnel openings in them, and punishing the owners of those homes. No country in the world tolerates the problem of the tunnels except for Egypt and PalestineÔǪ" 

The MB And Hamas Are Liars; Hamas Begged For A Ceasefire In Gaza

 "We must recognize that the Hamas movement is part of the MB. This is explicitly declared by all, and Hamas receives instructions from the office of the MB's global general guideÔǪ We agreed [with Hamas] that we would establish the National Accord government, but that it would not include a single member of the Hamas movement. This government was sworn in on June 2,.[2014], and exactly ten days later, on June 12, they kidnapped the three settlers [near] Hebron. I tried to avoid creating a crisis. I spoke with [Hamas political bureau head] Khaled Mash'al and asked him whether Hamas had anything to do with the kidnapping of the settlers, and he said: We have nothing to do with it. I wanted him to confirm it again, and he swore by Allah that they had nothing to do with it. I told him: I believe you. That was in Doha.

 "Then the war in Gaza broke out, and I visited Qatar and Turkey to consult [with them] about the Egyptian initiative. I had a meeting with the Emir of Qatar, and I asked him [to hold a meeting] attended by the Hamas leadership and by members of the movement who were in Qatar. Before this meeting [was held], Hamas member Salah Al-'Arouri officially declared from Istanbul that it was Hamas that had kidnapped the three settlers and killed them, in order to promote Hamas's attempt to mobilize the Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Then I asked Mash'al again about those involved in the affair, and he said that Al-'Arouri had spoken for himself, not for Hamas.   

"I want to say here that no one lies more than them [Hamas] and the MB. I am not against Islam, but I am against the MB. I am a good Muslim - I fast, I pray, and I read the Koran - while they are a bunch of liars...

"Because of Hamas's lie, this regrettable Gaza war broke out. I phoned the Egyptian president and asked him to submit a proposal to stop the war. I clarified that [such] an initiative would save the Palestinian people, and that it was the entire Palestinian people that was asking him to do this, not Hamas. [I explained this because] I sensed from his words that he wanted nothing whatsoever to do with Hamas. President Al-Sisi met my request, and the Egyptian initiative was proposed. They [had to] propose it for 51 days, because of Hamas's obstinacy, and during this time the land [Gaza] was completely destroyed. On the last day [f the war], Hamas members begged me to declare a ceasefire with no reservations or conditions, after many had already been killed and wounded and Gaza was in ruins."

"During the 50-day war, everyone spoke out against me, first of all Fatah. I told them that I am not willing to destroy the West Bank and Ramallah. Hamas, for example, killed three [Israelis], and it wanted an intifada, and I did not respond... At the end of the war, my men told me: You were right. Had we acted like them [i.e., like Hamas], the [entire] land would have been ruined..."

Hamas Is Always Thwarting The Palestinian Reconciliation; New Elections Must Be Held

"I wondered why Hamas did not accept the reconciliation from the outset, instead of [allowing]the destruction that was caused in the Strip. The same thing happened when they blew up the homes of the Fatah leaders in Gaza recently [on November 7], but claimed that they were not involved in this and that they were investigating the incident. They are liars. All the extremist factions declared that they were not responsible for this; even ISIS released an official announcement denying any connection to these bombings in Gaza. There is no one else[who could have done it]but them [Hamas]. Despite this, we diligently implement the reconciliation because we pursue unity of the land and the holding of elections. If they win, I will welcome them as I did in 2006 [when they won the elections]...

"Despite everything we do to bring our positions closer to their positions, they do things that thwart the reconciliation efforts. The latest of these was the cancellation of the rally commemorating the 10th anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death, because they feared that a million Palestinians in Gaza who support us would  go out [into the streets] - like they did two years ago when 1.2 million turned out to commemorate the founding of Fatah...

"They [Hamas] concluded with Robert Serry, the UN  emissary for rebuilding Gaza, that we [the Palestinian Authority] as a state would be at the border and the crossings in order to receive aid and construction materials, under UN oversight, so that we could transfer them to whoever needs them. But they backed out of the agreement, and again difficulties were created for rebuilding Gaza. Despite this, we are transferring aid in a variety of ways...

"I ask Hamas: Go to the polls again. The results will be[either] your continued control of Gaza, or the people not reelecting you. But they [Hamas] believe in one-off elections..."

 

Endnotes:

 

 

[1] Akhbar Al-Yawm (Egypt), November 30, 2014.

[2] In the preface to the interview, it was stated that, according to 'Abbas, Mursi had promised him in 2012 to meet Israel's demand to give Gaza 1,600 square kilometers of Sinai's territory, in return for Israel stopping the fighting in Gaza, and that the idea of giving the Palestinians territory in Sinai was part of a plan known in Israel as the Giora  Eiland plan.