Abbas Turnabout: We Won't Declare Unilateral State
In an interview, Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas said that he had no plans to declare a state unilaterally, and that the PA had shelved any plans it may have had to petition the United Nations to recognize such a state before coming to a final-status agreement with Israel.
“At this stage there is no option to declare a Palestinian state without Israel's collaboration," Abbas said in the interview, which was aired on Al Jazeera television on Saturday. “A Palestinian state will be established only with agreement from Israel.” However, he said, without that agreement, another intifida could break out. Failure to come to a deal, he said, “will have serious repercussions” on the entire region.
In perhaps the most surprising revelation, Abbas said that before negotiations were broken off with Israel during Operation Cast Lead, he had come to an agreement with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Jerusalem, one of the thorniest issues in the negotiations. Abbas said that the two had agreed to keep Jerusalem a unified city which would remain open to both Israeli and PA residents, with two city halls operating in different parts of the city responsible for municipal affairs in each section. All residents and visitors would have full access to all parts of the city, including the holy places, and each municipality would be responsible for ensuring the safety of visitors and residents. The proposal sounded to many similar to one made numerous times in the past by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, to divide the city into “boroughs,” which would be self-administering, but part of the same unified entity.
Abbas added that Israel had agreed to recognize the PA's right to establish its capital in Jerusalem during the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush, but that Israel kept looking for ways to avoid implementing those understandings. Abbas urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to accept the understandings with Barak and Bush as the basis of future negotiations.