After his White House meeting, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, said Palestinians recognized Israel’s legitimacy back in 1988 and in 1993.
US President Barack Obama on Monday told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that both he and Israeli leaders must make tough political decisions and take “risks” for peace.
Meeting Obama at the White House, Abbas said a scheduled Israeli release of a fourth tranche of Palestinian prisoners by March 29 would show how serious Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was about extending peace talks.
“As I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu when he was here just a few weeks ago, I believe that now is the time …. to embrace this opportunity,” Obama said as he met Abbas in the Oval Office.
“It is very hard, very challenging. We are going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we able to move forward,” Obama said.
The US leader was seeking to secure Abbas’s agreement on a US framework to extend peace talks, which have so far lasted seven months but not made tangible progress, past an end-of April deadline.
He said that everyone already understood the shape of an “elusive” peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, saying it would be based on 1967 lines with mutual land swaps.
Abbas did not directly address the Israeli government’s demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a “Jewish” state.
He noted, through a translator, that the Palestinians had recognized Israel’s legitimacy in 1988 and in “1993 we recognized the state of Israel.”
Abbas also noted the agreement that the Palestinians have with Israel on the release of a fourth batch of prisoners by March 29.
“This will give a very solid impression about the seriousness of the Israelis on the peace process.”
Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of West Bank cities Monday in support of Abbas’s visit to Washington for talks with Barack Obama on the peace process with Israel.
Demonstrators waved the Palestinian national flag as well as that of Abbas’s Fatah party, chanting “We are with you, president!” as Abbas was to weigh up an anticipated US request to extend the faltering negotiations with Israel.
“We’re here today to stand up to pressures upon us and make sure president Abbas adheres to his convictions,” said Nasser Eddin al-Shaer – former Palestinian education minister and member of Fatah’s Islamist rivals Hamas – who joined a 5,000-strong rally in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
Some 1,500 people turned out in the West Bank administrative center of Ramallah, and more than 1,000 in the southern flashpoint city of Hebron.
“A true partner for peace”
Ahead of Monday’s meeting between President Barack Obama and Abbas, Israeli President Shimon Peres expressed his belief that the Palestinian Authority leader is a true partner for peace.
“Abu Mazen (Abbas) is a true partner for peace and a man of principles who opposes violence and terror,” Peres said at a meeting with human rights activists. “We are currently at the most critical juncture of negotiations and we must do everything in our power to ensure that they continue. There is a clear majority and agreement on two states for two peoples.”
His words were in sharp contrast to repeated claims by Israel’s right wing, including by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon just two days ago, that Abbas was not a partner for any peace deal with Israel.
Ahead of the Oval Office meeting, Israeli and Palestinian media speculated that Abbas will demand that Israel freeze West Bank settlement construction and free Marwan Barghouti, a senior Palestinian official serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison.
The meeting, which Palestinian officials are calling one of the most important diplomatic conversations in recent years, comes amid what appears to be flailing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The meeting also comes just 11 days ahead of a previously agreed prisoner release by Israel of Palestinian prisoners serving time for terror-related offenses.
Palestinian officials have hinted at the details of what Abbas will demand, including the release of old and ill prisoners, of Barghouti and of Ahmad Sa’adat, who was found guilty of assassinating Israeli minister Rehavam Ze’evi.
Foreseeing a collapse of the talks, left-wing Israeli activists are circulating a petition with a proposed Israeli-Palestinian deal, including a demilitarized Palestinian State, Jerusalem as a shared capital, and future arrangement on the management of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
The proposal was published in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper and is signed by a variety of Israeli activists, cultural figures, businessmen, and former army officers.
Ahead of Monday’s meeting, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama’s message to Abbas will be consistent with the one he conveyed Netanyahu when he visited the White House on March 3.
“He will commend president Abbas, as he did Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the tough decisions that each leader has made thus far in an effort to move the process forward,” Carney said.
“He will speak of the need to establish a framework for negotiations going forward and the need — as that takes place, for additional tough decisions to be taken. We hope that we will see progress.”
Abbas said last week that he could not yet assess the US-formulated “framework” agreement because he had not seen it — during the seven-month long peace drive that has reportedly yielded no agreements on key issues.
“We have never discussed prolonging the negotiations at all, nor was it offered to us.”
Abbas met Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday ahead of the talks with Obama, who spent the weekend being briefed by his top officials on a more pressing foreign policy crisis, the showdown with Russia over Crimea.
A senior State Department official said the Kerry-Abbas meeting was “frank and productive.”
“We are at a pivotal time in the negotiations and while these issues have decades of history behind them, neither party should let tough political decisions at this stage stand in the way of a lasting peace,” the official added.
The most nettlesome issues in the peace process include the contours of a future Palestinian state, the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, security and mutual recognition.
The Palestinians want borders based on the lines that preceded the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank, including now-annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
They have also insisted there should be no Israeli troops in their future state.
But Israel wants to retain existing settlements it has built over the past decades. It also wants to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, where the West Bank borders Jordan.
View original i24NEWS publication at: http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/middle-east/140317-abbas-obama-peace-talks