TEL AVIV – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the French initiative for reviving the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, saying his failure to do so “will bring the Islamic State to Israel.”
“If we don’t revive the peace process, the violence and radicalism from Syria will come here,” Abbas said. “The Islamic State and the Al-Nusra Front will reach Israel and the West Bank.”
Speaking in Ramallah to a delegation from the left-wing Meretz party, Abbas also admitted that there was incitement to violence against Israelis in official Palestinian media and government-issued textbooks: “Yes, there is incitement in our textbooks and on television.”
However, he said that the problem could easily be resolved:
“Let’s solve the problem and revive the incitement commission that was agreed upon [between Israel and the Palestinian Authority] 16 years ago.”
“The commission [which is chaired by the United States] will determine what needs to be corrected,” Abbas said.
“Let’s leave everything in the past and let’s meet,” Abbas continued. “When two sides are invited to a meeting, one cannot present preconditions. It’s the international community that should determine what is right and what isn’t.”
This week, Netanyahu told French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault that he was opposed to the idea of a peace conference in Paris, claiming that the only way forward is direct negotiations between the two sides.
Abbas refused to comment on why he continues to reject Israel’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
He also slammed the continued expansion of Israeli settlements.
“The Israeli government is building settlements on Palestinian land,” Abbas said. “We will not agree to a situation whereby a new settlement and a new checkpoint are cropping up all the time.”
“The entire world is against settlements. This is the position taken by the Americans and the Europeans. There have been 12 Security Council resolutions against settlements. Stop them,” he added.
Asked whether he has lost faith in Netanyahu and his ability in negotiating peace, Abbas answered cryptically:
“Ever since we started negotiating with the Israelis, we’ve been talking to every prime minister. I can’t say whether I believe him or not, or whether I’ve lost faith in him.”
However, at one stage he addressed Netanyahu directly:
When the whip is over my head, you can’t tell me to stop. You have to stop. You say that there is no partner for negotiations and that your hand is outstretched for talks. You want to pick someone else [with whom to negotiate]? The Israelis picked you and the Palestinians picked me. I’m a “diplomatic terrorist,” as [former foreign minister Avigdor] Liberman put it. Besides that, there’s nothing you can say about me.
“Put it all to the side and let’s negotiate,” Abbas said. “We aren’t far apart [physically] and we cooperate on a daily basis. Don’t push us to the wall. We will all lose.”
Abbas praised the French initiative to the Meretz officials. Meretz is the only non-Arab party that has publicly backed the French plan.
“The French plan is a good one since we want the international community to take responsibility for this endless conflict,” Abbas said. “We want the whole word by our side. We are one of the last remaining nations that suffer under military occupation. How much longer will this go on? How much longer will the world permit one people to control another?”