U.S. President Barack Obama met Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas Thursday and said afterwards that the PA must stop anti-Israel incitement.
"I do share Pres. Abbas’s feelings and I believe that many Israelis share the same view, that time is of the essence, that we can’t continue with the drift… with the sense of increased fear and resentments on both sides,” Obama told press representatives.
“I also mentioned to President Abbas in a frank exchange that it was very important to continue to make progress in reducing the incitement and anti-Israel sentiments that are sometimes expressed in schools and mosques and in the public square,” Obama added, “because all those things are impediments to peace.”
Abbas: U.S. should pressure Israel
In an interview with the Washington Post before his meeting with Obama, Abbas said that he intends to refuse to begin negotiations with Israel until its government changes its policies, and that he will not even agree to help U.S. mideast envoy George Mitchell to persuade Arab states to take small confidence-building steps toward Israel.
"We can't talk to the Arabs [about taking those steps] until Israel agrees to freeze settlements and recognize the two-state solution," Abbas said. "Until then we can't talk to anyone."
"The Americans are the leaders of the world," Abbas told the newspaper. "They can use their weight with anyone around the world. Two years ago they used their weight on us. Now they should tell the Israelis, 'You have to comply with the conditions.'"
'Good reality' in the PA
The Post says that Abbas and his team “fully expect that Netanyahu will never agree to the full settlement freeze,” so they “plan to sit back and watch while U.S. pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. ‘It will take a couple of years,’ one official breezily predicted.” Abbas said that he rejects the idea that he should recognize Israel as a Jewish state, because this would imply that he has given up on demanding the so-called "Right of Return" -- a phrase Arabs use to refer to the idea of flooding Israel with Arab "refugees."
Abbas explained that he intends to "sit and wait."
"I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements," he said. "Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life."
Post columnist Jackson Diehl, who participated in the Abbas interview, wrote afterward that “Obama has revived a long-dormant Palestinian fantasy: That the United States will simply force Israel to make critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees, while Arabs passively watch and applaud.”