PA Chief Commits to Hold a Referendum

In an interview published in <I>Time</I> magazine, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas promised that the PA Arabs would get their say in a referendum on any compromise with Israel.

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, | updated: 15:48

In the interview, published yesterday, Abbas (Abu Mazen) was asked if he will make unpopular decisions and compromises with Israel in order to reach a final-status agreement. He replied: "I promise any compromise will go to a referendum. People will accept it or not."

One persistent demand of the PA is that Israel accept into its final-status territory millions of Arab refugees currently living in neighboring Arab states and in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has claimed that US President George W. Bush promised that, in the context of a final agreement between Israel and the PA, there will be no "right of return" for Arabs who left Israel in 1948 and their descendants. Mr. Bush further committed the US to recognize Israel maintaining certain Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, Sharon has said.

When asked about the American commitments, Abu Mazen said, "President Bush doesn't have the right to prejudice final-status issues. These issues should be discussed in the final stages, not now. He can't make commitments on behalf of the Palestinian people. It is our right to say yes or no."

The PA leader also told Time that he is in favor of starting secret negotiations with Israel and the United States regarding a permanent settlement with Israel, in parallel to public actions by the involved sides.