Peres Still Considers Abbas 'Serious Partner' for Peace
While some in Israel view the Palestinian Authority's unilateral move for statehood as a sign that Mahmoud Abbas and his government are not interested in negotiations, Israeli President Shimon Peres still believes that Abbas is a "serious partner" for peace.
"I tried to influence him not to do it right now. I told him: look it's not the proper time to do it," Peres told AFP of the PA's UN bid for upgraded status, "But I still believe he's a serious partner and a serious man and I have respect for him."
Peres claims Abbas showed "courage" by seeking the status upgrade at the United Nations in the face of strong opposition from Israel and the United States, which hold that a Palestinian state can only emerge out of direct negotiations.
"He has shown courage not only by going to the United Nations, which I think -- from a point of view of time -- was the wrong time, but he stood up and said 'I am against terror, I am for peace'," the Israeli president said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu might say otherwise, as the PM lamblasted Abbas for what he called a "venemous speech" that Abbas made in front of the UN when he was pleading his cause. "The world watched a defamatory and venomous speech that was full of mendacious propaganda against the IDF and the citizens of Israel. Someone who wants peace does not talk in such a manner," said Netanyahu.
In his speech, Abbas made outrageous claims of ethnic cleansing by the Israelis and refusals to negotiate, saying, “We have not heard one word from any Israeli official expressing any sincere concern to save the peace process. On the contrary, our people have witnessed, and continue to witness, an unprecedented intensification of military assaults, the blockade, settlement activities and ethnic cleansing, particularly in occupied east Jerusalem, and mass arrests, attacks by settlers and other practices by which this Israeli occupation is becoming synonymous with an apartheid system of colonial occupation, which institutionalizes the plague of racism and entrenches hatred and incitement."
"He felt he was abandoned by us, by America, by Europe by the rest of the world and he wanted to do something," Peres said of Abbas.
Abbas's attempt to secure upgraded UN status was harshly criticised by many in Israel's ruling rightwing coalition, with Netanyahu himself saying it "violated" existing agreements with the Palestinians and that his government would "act accordingly."
But although he questioned the timing of the UN move, Peres stopped short of criticising it per se, saying only that it had created "a crisis of confidence."
"It wasn't necessary. The situation is already loaded with so many problems and disagreements that another is not really an urgent need," he said.
A day after the November 29 vote, Israel announced plans to build 3,000 new housings units in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, which was met with condemnations and diplomatic backlash from the U.S. and Europe.
The moved sparked fury throughout the PA, as former chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, declared that Israel's decision to build in the area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim meant the “end of the peace process.” Israelis wondered what peace process he was talking about, as negotiations were broken off by Mahmoud Abbas despite the ten-month buiding freeze Israel imposed on itself.
"If Israel decides to start building in E1 and approves all the settlements in it, we consider it to be an Israeli decision to end the peace process and the two-state solution, which ends any chance of talking about peace in the future,” Erekat told the AFP news agency last Wednesday.
Making the prospects of peace between the two governments even more complicated is Abbas's statements last Tuesday that the time has come to reconcile with the Hamas terror group which rules Gaza.
"It is time to seriously deal with reconciliation and for contacts with Egypt's mediation for a reconciliation," Abbas was quoted as having said at a meeting of the PA leadership attended by Nassereddine al-Shaer, a Hamas deputy premier.
Adding to this, a senior member of Fatah also called for armed resistance against Israel, airing his plea on television the same day that Abbas asked the United Nations to upgrade the PA’s status.
Despite all of this, Peres claims Abbas is a serious partner for peace. Yet as Peres will not be running in the upcoming Knesset elections his pleas will most likely fall on deaf ears, if the Israeli people wish to hear it at all at this point.