During a recent visit to Venezuela to attend the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas met with representatives of the Palestinian community in the country and with Palestinian students. The meeting, held on September 17, 2016, dealt with the situation in the Middle East. Addressing the issue of the Palestinian refugees, 'Abbas said that he too is a refugee who has the right of return. "It is true that I live in Ramallah, but Ramallah is not my city," he said. "I have not returned [to my native city] and I am entitled to demand my right to return [there]." The next day, he made a similar statement about the refugees' right "to return to their homes" on his Twitter page. In the September 17 meeting, 'Abbas also spoke of the need for reconciliation with Hamas. Referring to the recent spate of Palestinian attacks on Israelis, he said that Palestinian children who have lost hope are taking up knives to carry out stabbing attacks.
The following are excerpts from his statements at this meeting.
'Abbas in Venezuela (image: Maannews.net, September 18, 2016)
"I Am A Refugee And I Have The Right To Return"
Addressing the issue of negotiations with Israel, 'Abbas said that, although the channels of negotiation are currently closed, "our hand is nevertheless extended in peace, [a peace] based on the two-state solution on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the [Palestinian] capital, and [based on] resolving the outstanding problems, including the problem of the refugees." He added: "There are six million [Palestinian] refugees, and I am one of them. I am a refugee. It is true that I live in Ramallah, but Ramallah is not my city. I have not returned [to my native city] and I am entitled to demand my right [of return], for I am a refugee who lost his land and his homeland. This is one of the problems that must be resolved in negotiations with Israel."
The next day, 'Abbas's Twitter page posted the following message from him: "President Mahmoud 'Abbas: There are six million Palestinian refugees who are waiting to receive what they are entitled to, [waiting] to be allowed to return to their homes in accordance with UN Resolution 194."
On The Stabbing Attacks: Children Are Taking Up Knives Of Their Own Volition To Carry Out Stabbings
'Abbas went on to say that "the situation in Palestine is characterized by many difficulties, but also by daily achievements. Every day there are martyrs and children who take up knives. Children are taking up knives of their own volition. Do not believe those who say that certain elements are pushing and inciting them. These are children who have lost hope and are taking up knives to carry out stabbing attacks."
There Is Need For Reconciliation With Hamas
On the topic of Hamas, he said: "There is need to achieve national reconciliation, for without Gaza there is no homeland; the homeland is Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem." He added: "We have a disagreement with Hamas but [Hamas] is part of the Palestinian people. We have disagreements, but we live together. We disagree on politics and ideologies, but we live in the same state and want to live in coexistence in this state. It is democracy and elections that will decide between us."