‘I WILL NOT END MY LIFE WITH A BETRAYAL’ President Abbas tells the Fatah leadership

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The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem
The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem

IN A speech last Wednesday to the Fatah Revolutionary Council, Palestinian President Abbas declared: ‘I want to achieve something for my country and I will not end my life with a betrayal.

‘We will not allow anyone to harm Fatah, tear it apart, mess with it, or sell it to any country in the world.’

He began his speech: ‘We started negotiations with the Israelis and the Americans on the basis that the negotiations will run for nine months and we will then see what happens.’

He added: ‘Days after we made the agreement, we made another one. Here I wish to stress that the second agreement has nothing to do with the first, although the Israelis always try to mix between the two agreements, and between the agreements and halting settlement activities.

‘The second agreement, which we made days later stipulated that Israel should release 104 prisoners from among those who were arrested before 1993 in four groups in exchange for us agreeing not to go to the United Nations during the nine-month time frame.

‘True, the nine-month time frame is the same, but there is a difference between the first agreement and the second. By the way, the second agreement expires on 29 March when the fourth and last group of prisoners is released. After that, we will wait until the time frame is over and then we can discuss things.

‘With regards to the negotiations, the Palestinian position is firm. Occupied East Jerusalem must be the capital of the State of Palestine.

‘The second point was that they must leave the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 with some minor adjustments equal in size and value. But when we sign the agreement, we can agree on a period for withdrawal after which there will be no Israelis in our territory.

‘The third point is the issue of the refugees. You know that (UN) Resolution 194 provides for compensation to those who do not wish to return. President Clinton had presented some ideas, which we accepted as a whole and clarified in detail. They mentioned four categories. First: Any Palestinian who wishes to stay at his place of refuge is entitled to do so and get compensation.

‘Second: Any Palestinian who wishes to move to another country can do that in agreement between the two countries, and is also entitled to compensation.

‘Third: Any Palestinian who wishes to return to the State of Palestine should be able to do so.

‘Fourth: Any Palestinian can return to the State of Israel in the name of the right to return. In all cases, everyone should get compensation. The host countries must also get compensation. Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, all these countries which hosted the Palestinians in 1948 are entitled to compensation for what they endured and did during that period, which lasted for 66 years.

‘The fifth point is the Jewish state. In the past two or three years, Israel raised the issue of the Jewish state, which was not part of the basic issues and was not even on our agenda. It is insisting on this request only from the State of Palestine.

‘It does not want any other country in the world to recognise it as a Jewish state, but they ask us the Palestinians to recognise the Jewish state, or in other words, the state of the Jewish people, the national homeland of the Jews, which ultimately means recognising the Jewish state.

‘We said the following: We recognised the State of Israel in 1993 in the mutual recognition between President Arafat and the Israeli prime minister and no one asked us for anything else after that. Also, there were peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and neither country was asked to give such recognition, so why do you ask us for this?

‘These are the issues that are put on the agenda, and which we discussed in more than 35 meetings. In April, the time frame and the negotiations will end. We are committed to the nine-month time frame and when it is over, we will decide what we want.

‘There is another very important issue, which is the issue of the fourth group of prisoners which is supposed to be over on 29 March. This is an epitome of the political action and the negotiations. The latest development was a phone call between me and Mr Kerry the day before yesterday (10 March) which lasted for 35 minutes.

‘Contacts are continuing uninterrupted, and the delegations are there. There was a delegation headed by Brother Saeb Erekat a week ago in the United States, and we will go to the United States on 17 March.

‘Before we go, some brothers may go for further discussions and dialogue to see what we can come out with, and then act accordingly. But the position that I told you is our position and this is what we can accept.

‘This is also what the people can accept because, in the end, if we all agreed, and if the Central Council and the Executive Committee agreed, we must go to a referendum which means that every Palestinian, from Canada to Japan, will have the right to express his opinion on the agreement we reach. Our position is known to all and we hope that we can get something.”

Yesterday (March 11), the Arab League issued a series of decisions, the most important of which expressed its rejection of the Jewish state and said that East Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Palestine. In other words, the Arab League adopted our position.

‘The Arab cover is very important to us. Without the Arab cover, we will be standing alone, but even if we were standing alone, we will not surrender. Another important issue is that the whole of Europe, all 28 countries, decided to boycott the products of the settlements.

‘Hell broke loose against us on the pretext that we demand the boycott of Israel. We did not demand the boycott of Israel, but we demanded the boycott of Israel’s illegal and hostile actions on our land. It is not only Europe that embraced such an issue, but we have many other countries that did the same.

‘We are moving ahead and our position is not weak. We are not shackled or poor. We are doing well, except with the economic situation, and this is something we should know and I talked about it on more than one occasion . . .

‘Now we are coming under siege; actually we are already under siege. Therefore, I hope our brothers in the trade unions, the associations, and others would fear God a little. Our conditions are hard, and I hope they understand that.We have enough pressures from here and there and we do not need more domestic pressures.

‘I urge the brothers in the trade unions to understand that we have to be patient and put up with these issues. I hope they take this into consideration.

‘The next two months will be very tough on us. I do not want to hide anything from you, but we can be patient and this is not a slogan. We should all put up with the burden so that we can proceed towards the future. I am certain that, God willing, we will move towards the future.’

Abbas went on to attack Hamas over national unity.

He said: ‘Our national interest dictates that we unite our people and we live in one unity in order for us to struggle to achieve our national rights to independence and freedom.

‘We reached an agreement in Doha which was later entrenched in Cairo, and Hamas said tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, but to no avail. After that, someone like (Hamas spokesman) Al-Zahhar, or someone else, comes out to say that the US pressure prevents Abu-Mazin (Abbas) from moving forward with reconciliation…

‘Days ago, Egypt issued a decision banning Hamas. I believe this is a temporary decision that needs to be ratified. With all due respect to Egypt, which we highly appreciate and are concerned about, it is in Palestine’s interest to achieve reconciliation.

‘I sent a message to Hamas two days ago telling them that it is described as a banned, illegal movement now, so let us achieve reconciliation before the verdict is ratified and before things get more complicated.

‘The answer was: “We cannot do that. We have people inside and abroad and the decisions are different; the Shura Council has not met yet.” They are irresponsible and they do not want reconciliation. I do not want to be tougher than that towards them. But the important question is: If there were no reconciliation, tell me what to do?’