Abbas says peace with Israel will be brought to a referendum for Palestinians ‘everywhere’ 2Sep13 September 2, 2013

The Jerusalem Post      -     1 September 2013

ShowImagePalestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday night vowed to put to a referendum any agreement he reaches with Israel.

Abbas, who was speaking at the opening of a meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council in Ramallah, said that Palestinians everywhere would be asked to approve an agreement with Israel through the referendum.

“If there is any development and an agreement, it is known that we will go to a referendum,” Abbas clarified. “It won’t be enough to have the approval of the Fatah Central Committee or the PLO Executive Council for an agreement. Rather, we would go to a referendum everywhere because the agreement represents Palestinians everywhere.”

Abbas’s calls for a referendum echo those on the Israeli side that any final status agreement with the Palestinians be put to a referendum. The Palestinian leader made similar comments regarding a referendum in an interview with a Jordanian newspaper in July.

Referring to the current peace talks with Israel, Abbas said that that so far the two sides have only presented their views to each other. “We will wait for a period of six to nine months,” he said.

Abbas said he agreed to delay seeking full United Nations membership of a Palestinian state in return for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

“I consider the issue of the UN to be very important, but the case of the prisoners is worthy of sacrifice,” he added. “We have prepared 63 requests to join 63 UN agencies and conventions, but I said the issue of the prisoners is now more significant.”

Abbas reassured the Fatah leaders that he would not make any concessions during the negotiations with Israel. “Our positions are the same as previous ones,” he explained. “This means Jerusalem is at the top of our list of priorities. A Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital. Without that there will be no solution. There will be nostate without Jerusalem, which is a red line for us.”

Abbas defended Palestinian officials who held a series of meetings recently with Israelis, saying this was a way of attempting to impact Israeli public opinion. He said that Palestinians who met with Israelis were not ‘traitors.”

Abbas said that he was under pressure from the US and Israel not to achieve unity with Hamas. He also accused Hamas of meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs.

Abbas voiced opposition to a military strike against Syria. “We don’t accept striking an Arab country from outside,” he said. “But we also condemn whoever used chemical weapons and demand a peaceful solution.” 

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni met with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Jerusalem on Saturday in a continuation of peace talks, Israel Radio reported.

The sides were expected to meet again on Tuesday.

The last three rounds of talks between Israel and the Palestinians did not achieve any progress, Nabil Sha’ath, member of the Fatah Central Committee, said Sunday.

“The Palestinian side held a number of negotiating sessions with the Israeli side in order to achieve progress, but Israel did not present anything positive,” Sha’ath told the Al-Resalah news website.

He said that Israel’s policy on the ground was “in complete contradiction of the principles of the peace process.” He accused Israel of pursuing settlement construction and the “Judaization” of Jerusalem.

Sha’ath said that despite the lack of progress the Palestinian Authority was determined to continue with the peace talks while not ruling out the possibility of going to international agencies and forums if the negotiations fail.

Sha’ath also complained about the absence of international pressure on Israel.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki wrote in a brief statement on Sunday that the negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians “have been serious and US Special Envoy Martin Indyk and his team have been fully briefed on the bilateral talks.”

“As we have said in the past, we are not planning to read out the details of these meetings,” Psaki added.

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