Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is often touted by the West as a “moderate peace partner”, has once again indicated that he is willing to resume negotiations with Israel - but not give up on even one of his never-ending preconditions.
In an interview with the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper which was published on Saturday, Abbas expressed hope that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been pushing the sides to return to the negotiating table, will make another visit to the region soon.
The negotiations, he stressed, will be a starting point, and “while we may not get everything, we will fight to realize our national aspirations, especially the issue of Al-Quds (the Arab name for Jerusalem), which is an issue on which we will not give up, because if it is not the capital of the State of Palestine, there will be no solution.”
Abbas rejected the claims that the Palestinian Authority has made any concessions to Kerry.
"Show me one concession we made," he said, adding, "When we present the demand for a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, it is not a condition. This issue appears in all the UN documents."
"We consider any settlement after 1967 illegal based on 13 Security Council resolutions condemning settlement, and which consider it illegal,” declared Abbas. “In addition, U.S. President Barack Obama opposed the settlements and even any natural growth in them."
Abbas has insisted that Israel recognize the 1949 Armistice Line as a designated border for any future PA state. Israel refuses, as the pre-1967 borders are indefensible and withdrawing back to these borders would guarantee its destruction.
The demand that Israel recognize these indefensible borders as a designated border for a Palestinian state is just one in a long line of preconditions that Abbas has imposed on negotiations. He has also demanded that Israel release terrorists jailed before the 1993 Oslo Accords and that it freeze all Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.
In the Al-Hayat interview, Abbas voiced unequivocal opposition to any armed struggle against Israel, saying, "I will not wave the flag of an (armed struggle) and destroy my country as a result. I will not have a missile will be fired from our territory so that the (Israelis) will react and destroy our territory. We tried it in the second intifada, which led to destruction, and in 2007 and 2009, and the result was that Egypt sponsored a peaceful agreement between Hamas and Israel, which sees armed operations as hostilities. Our way is the way of a popular resistance in peaceful ways.”
Abbas expressed his opposition to one state in “Palestine”, saying that "We do not see an alternative to the concept of the two-state solution.”
According to Abbas, PA Arabs as well as Arabs from other countries are not doing enough to talk with the American Jewish leadership and introduce their positions. These leaders, he claimed, are exposed only to the positions of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
"Kerry made useful and constructive proposals and we are not saying they were bad, but they need further clarification and explanation before we can return to negotiations," Abbas said.
The optimism displayed by Abbas was not reflected on the ground, with a new Israel-PA survey showing most people held little hope the talks would result in a resumption of direct talks after a hiatus of nearly three years.
According to a poll jointly conducted by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at Jerusalem's Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, just over a quarter of PA Arabs -- 27 percent -- and only one in 10 Israelis, believe that talks will resume and violence will end.
Just over two thirds of both peoples -- 68 percent of Israelis and 69 percent of PA Arabs -- view the likelihood of a Palestinian state emerging in the next five years as low or non-existent.