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Fatah Stresses: We're Not Giving Up 'Right of Return'

Abbas's faction stresses that it is not giving up on the demand to flood Israel with millions of PA Arabs.
By Dalit Halevi & Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/26/2013, 12:13 AM

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
AFP photo

If anyone had any doubts about what Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas meant when he met last week with members of the Israeli leftist party Meretz, an official statement from his Fatah party on Sunday made things clear.

After Thursday’s meeting, members of Meretz said that Abbas had reassured them that if a peace agreement is reached with Israel, it would bring an end to his people’s demands of the Jewish state.

"I know your concerns, but guarantee that at the conclusion of successful negotiations, we undertake to end all the demands. We will not ask to return to Yafo, Akko and Tzfat,” he reportedly said.

Members of Meretz said that Abbas told them a “fair agreement” will end the conflict with Israel and that a “peace agreement with Israel will be final and binding." He did not, however, specify what is meant by a fair peace agreement and did not commit to the fact that the PA would give up its demand for the “right of return”, which would see millions of Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 and their descendants flood Israel.

On Sunday, Abbas chaired a meeting of the Central Committee of the Fatah movement, at the conclusion of which Fatah spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement that "the main goal of the negotiations with Israel is to establish an independent Palestinian state within the [pre-]1967 borders with its capital Al-Quds (Jerusalem -ed.), and the return of refugees in accordance with resolutions by international legitimate institutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Abu Rudeineh stressed that "all issues related to the permanent status agreement are on the negotiating table, within the time frame of the nine months that was agreed upon with the U.S. government."

He added that the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria “is an obstacle to reaching a just peace based on the rights of the Palestinian people that cannot be canceled.”

The meeting between Abbas and the Meretz members took place several days after the latest meeting between Israeli and PA negotiators, as part of the current round of peace talks.

So far, details of the discussions between the sides have not been revealed, apparently consistent with a request from Washington last week for a strict news blackout.

At the same time, the PA’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat  revealed, in an interview with the Nazareth-based Arabic language A-Shams radio station on Tuesday, that the PA would not have returned to the negotiating table with Israel had it not received a letter of assurances from the United States, guaranteeing its main negotiating preconditions.

Meanwhile, not all PA factions are on board the peace talks. On Friday, hundreds of people in Gaza protested against Israeli-PA peace talks, in marches organized by the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups.

Marchers set off from mosques across the coastal strip before converging on a square in the middle of Gaza City, with protesters brandishing signs saying "No to negotiations" and slamming Abbas's "political failure."