Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was unimpressed on Saturday night by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s statements on Israeli television.
In a statement released by his office, Netanyahu said that there is no connection between what Abbas said during his interview with Channel 2 News and his actual actions.
“Abbas has refused for the last four years to renew negotiations with Israel, despite a series of steps taken by Prime Minister Netanyahu, such as an unprecedented freeze on settlement construction,” noted the statement.
“Abbas has also refused to discuss the security arrangements that are required to protect the citizens of Israel,” it added.
In the interview which aired on Friday night, Abbas said that he had no intention of trying to regain his childhood home in the northern town of Tzfat (Safed) in Galilee, which was liberated by Israel in 1948.
"I want to see Safed," he said in English. "It's my right to see it but not to live there."
In a direct pitch to Israeli viewers, apparently aimed at assuaging their concerns ahead of a PA bid to seek upgraded UN status, he reiterated his acceptance of the Israeli state within the 1949 Armistice borders that preceded its defeat of combined Arab armies in the 1967 Six-Day war.
"Palestine for me now is '67 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital," he told Channel 2. "This is Palestine for me. I am a refugee, I am living in Ramallah, I believe that the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts is Israel."
At the same time he insisted on going to the United Nations to ask that it recognize ‘Palestine’ as a non-member observer nation, claiming that this was not a unilateral move.
Education Minister Gidon Sa’ar also played down Abbas’s remarks, saying, "Abbas's words, according to which the PA intends to turn to the UN after the U.S. elections, show that the Palestinians continue unilateral measures instead of trying to negotiate with Israel.”
“The Palestinian intention is to try to achieve unilateral achievements, free of charge, and to continue the conflict with Israel from improved political positions,” he added.
"The Palestinian Authority does not want a Palestinian state as part of a solution to the conflict, but to continue the conflict with Israel from a position which is better for them,” said Sa’ar. “If the Palestinians choose to act unilaterally, Israel should respond with its own unilateral steps.”
Abbas’s statement also angered Hamas, whose Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, accused Abbas of having affected the Arab “right of return.”
"No one has the right, whoever he is, a common man or president, organization, a government or authority - to give up an inch of Palestinian land," said Haniyeh.
PA spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, rejected Hamas’s arguments and said, “The Chairman of the PA and the Palestinian leadership will never agree to a state with temporary borders, and he who agrees to a state with temporary borders is the one giving up the Right of Return, damages basic principles and causing a tragedy for future Palestinian generations.”
Abu Rudeineh insisted that the Right of Return and the matter of Arab refugees would be discussed in final status talks with Israel. "We hold steadfast regarding the basic principles that the national assembly ratified," he added, "and there is nothing new about this position."