Peres and Abbas 'Talk Peace' After TV Interview

President Shimon Peres calls PA Chairman Abbas to discuss the peace process, after Abbas's interview on Israeli television.

Contact Editor
Elad Benari,

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas received a phone call from President Shimon Peres on Sunday, the PA-based WAFA news agency reported.

According to the report, the two discussed the peace process.

The conversation between the two came after comments Abbas made in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News over the weekend caused a hype both in Israel and in the PA.

In the interview, which aired on Friday, Abbas hinted that he had given up on the “right of return” when he 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.

Peres had praised Abbas for the comments already on Saturday night, saying that they were “courageous.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was not as impressed as Peres, noting that “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.”

Abbas’s statements 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.

After his remarks sparked huge protests in Gaza, Abbas retracted his statements. His own spokesman said that the Palestinian Authority certainly has not given up the demand that Israel allow the immigration of several million foreign Arabs who claim Israel is their home.

Abbas then made it clear to the Arab world, through an Egyptian television network, that although he personally would give up living in Tzfat, “the right of return is holy and no one can deny it.”

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman noted on Sunday that “what's important is what Abu Mazen tells his own people in Arabic, not what he tells the Israeli public in English.”

"We should listen to what he says in Arabic. The hatred, the vitriol. There is what he says in English, and there is what he says in Arabic,” Lieberman said.

"Abu Mazen spoke less than two months ago at the UN assembly and uttered hateful slander that one could only read in Goebbels' Der Sturmer... I remember that he met terrorists who were responsible for attacks at the Park Hotel, at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, and he spoke of them as heroes. Then he mumbles something in English on Israeli television and it's as if everything has changed, and he never said anything before this.

"If someone wants to be naïve, it's his right. If someone wants to commit suicide – let him. But we cannot ignore what happened," said Lieberman.