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December 24, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2714

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas: No To Violence, Terrorism, Gunfire, or Military Intifada

December 24, 2009
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 2714

In two recent interviews with the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas clarified that his decision not to run for reelection was final, and said that negotiations with Israel would only be renewed if the latter recognized the 1967 borders and put a complete freeze on settlements for a six month period – even an undeclared freeze.

Following are excerpts from the interviews:

Olmert Promised Us 100% of the Territory; We Could Have Reached an Agreement

Q: "Could you have reached an agreement with Olmert?"

A: "I think we could have reached an understanding..[1] and found a solution. In fact, [Olmert] said he would give me 100% [of the territory].."

Renewal of Talks in Return for a Six-Month Complete Settlement Freeze, Recognition of 1967 Borders

Q: "What is the way to out [of the deadlock] and towards renewing the negotiations [with Israel]?"

A: "There must be a six-month [complete] settlement freeze, [even] an undeclared one. [The Israelis can] inform the Americans or someone else about it. As for us, we have people who can monitor the situation on the ground. [Additionally], the 1967 borders must be declared as the basis for negotiations.. I suggested this idea to the Americans and to (Israeli Defense Minister) Ehud Barak on two occasions.. [and said,] 'If you agree to this, you can inform only the Americans..' [but Barak] did not respond to our [proposal]."

No to a Bi-National State or a State with Temporary Borders; No to a Return to Violence

Q: "There are those who call to establish a single [bi-national] state."

A: "We do not call for [such] a state.. that is not the option [we want]. The Road Map [sets out] three phases. The first is [the phase of] obligations. I have fulfilled all my obligations.. while Israel has done nothing. I am convinced of this, and this is why Israel has actually canceled the first phase of the plan. The third phase involves [establishing] two states and ending the occupation, but [the Israelis] refuse.. In other words, the third phase [of the plan] is also gone. As for the second phase, it [involves] the option of a state with temporary borders, but this I reject. So what is the solution? Where do they want to lead us? Nevertheless, I will not turn to violence. No matter where you drag us, I will not return to violence."

Q: "And if violence forces itself upon you?"

A: "Not me. I am against this.. I will not accept violence, terrorism, gunfire or a military intifada.. Absolutely not."

Q: "But you are in favor of a nonviolent popular struggle?"

A: "Certainly, the public has the right to protest. The people of [the villages] Ni'lin and Bil'in have the right to come out and voice their opposition to the fence. The residents of Jerusalem have the right to demonstrate against the occupation and destruction of their homes. But I repeat: I reject [the use of] military force because it will destroy us.. I will not have the land destroyed again now that it has been rebuilt."

Q: "Are there concerns that a third intifada might break out?"

A: "I hope that doesn't happen, and I am against it. But I hope nobody backs the people into a corner, [leaving them no other choice]."

Q: "But if the people see their president backed into a corner, what will they do?"

A: "That will be the people's decision, not mine. I will not call on them to start shooting. That will not happen."

Q: "They will not necessarily turn to armed resistance. They might stage an uprising along the lines of the first intifada of 1987.."

A: "[But] the intifada of 2000 was of a different nature. It was sparked by Ariel Sharon's provocation.. People were killed and a five-year intifada broke out, and look what it did to us."[2]

I Will Not Run For Reelection

Q: "Why have you chosen to step down as PA president? Was [your declaration] sincere, or was it merely a bid for attention..?"

A: "What do they want from me? The peace process has stopped and so has the [intra-Palestinian] reconciliation [process]... All the roads have been closed to me and there are no solutions. If I cannot move forward and attain my large goal, I will not continue in my post. I have attained security [for my people], improved the economic situation, and reformed the Fatah and PLO [institutions], [but the ultimate goal] is to achieve a reconciliation between all the [Palestinian] factions and hold negotiations with Israel. However, the doors have been closed in my face."

Q: "If [intra-Palestinian] reconciliation is achieved, will you reverse your decision?"

A: "If there is a change in positions, my successor will deal with it."

Q: "Is that your final decision?"

A: "Definitely.. I will not run for reelection. There is no choice but to make a serious effort [at reconciliation]. We will not wait forever, leaving the fate and future of the Palestinian people in the hands of Hamas, which is sitting all smug and comfortable in its [little] emirate in Gaza."

Hamas Is Funded by Iran

Q: "What happens if there are elections and Hamas [wins] and runs the PA?"

A: "That's up to [Hamas]. If the scenario you described materializes, the world will have to deal with a PA president who rejects the international law and the peace process. Nobody will deal with him. Hamas must change its positions so that Gaza can be rehabilitated. The billions [of dollars] that [various] countries promised to provide at the Sharm Al-Sheikh Summit have not been handed over because of Hamas' positions..."

Q: "Are you prepared to sit [and negotiate] with Hamas?"

A: "We have [already] done so, and if asked, I will not refuse to negotiate with anyone..

Q: "You signed the [reconciliation] agreement sponsored by Egypt.. and Hamas also agreed [to sign it], but reneged at the last moment.. How do you explain that?"

A: "They were subjected to pressures. [Their leaders] in Damascus get instructions [from elsewhere]."

Q: "Instructions from where?.. From Syria.. or perhaps Iran?"

A: "Instructions from Iran."

Q: "Did Iran torpedo the reconciliation?"

A: "Yes."

Q: "Why would it want to [do that]?"

A: "Iran is a player in the region, and at the same time it has [certain interests having to do with] its relations with the U.S. It wants to obtain bargaining chips it can use [to promote its goals].. and it is paying for them."

Q: "How much is it paying for this bargaining chip [i.e., Hamas]?"

A: "As far as I know, $250 million."

Q: "It pays this sum every year?"

A: "I don't know. [Maybe] every six months.. [maybe] every year.. Hamas is funded by Iran.. [Hamas] claims it is financed by donations.. but the [sum provided by] donations is nothing like what it receives from Iran. [This sum] does not come to one fourth, one fifth, or even one percent of what [Hamas] receives from Iran."

Q: "Is that the reason behind Khaled Mash'al's repeated visits to Iran?"

A: "Of course..."[3]

Hamas Gaza Wants Reconciliation, But Hamas Damascus Is Refusing

Q: "You say that there is an internal struggle within Hamas regarding the [intra-Palestinian reconciliation process]?"

A: "According to the information I have, the Hamas leadership in Gaza wants to sign the reconciliation [agreement], because it is suffering, but the Hamas leadership in Damascus does not want [to sign]. I do not know if this is true or not. The ones in Gaza want reconciliation because they are suffering daily..."

Q: "What if you tell Hamas, 'I am the PA president and I will come [to Gaza] to discharge my duty?"

A: "Let's say I decide to go to Gaza. I get into my car and go.. [But] then what?.. Tell me, what can I do?.. I don't even have a place to stay [there]."

Q: "[But] you have a house [there].. and a palace for hosting visitors."

A: "My house was seized [by Hamas].. and was the PLO headquarters. Where would I go?.. They turned my house into a prison.."

Yes to Prisoners Exchange Deal, Even at the Cost of Strengthening Hamas

Q: "If Hamas manages to free dozens of [Palestinian] prisoners whom Israel claims 'have Jewish blood on their hands,' it will be a victory for Hamas, because you did not manage to free a single one of [these prisoners] in 16 years of negotiations.. from the 1993 [signing of the] Oslo Agreement until today."

A: "You should put this question to Israel.. Besides, [Gilad] Shalit has cost us 2,500 shahids and [many destroyed] homes, etc., and it isn't over yet. I place the primary responsibility for this on Hamas, as well as Israel. So let's put this issue aside... They said I was against the [Shalit] deal because I feared competition from [Marwan] Barghouti... Well, I do not want to stand for reelection, so I have no reason to fear [him]..."

Q: "Are you not concerned that the prisoner [exchange] deal will increase Hamas' popularity at the expense of the PA's?"

A: "Despite this, I am in favor [of the deal].. Let them profit from it, as long as the prisoners are freed. One prisoner liberated means entire families saved. The most important thing is for the prisoners to return to their families."


Endnotes:
[1] The two-dot ellipsis appears in the original interviews, and apparently marks an omission.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 20, 2009.

[3] Al-Ahram (Egypt), December 19, 2009.

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