Head of the Palestinian Liberation Authority (PLO) Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday in a meeting with several journalists in Cairo that peaceful methods are the only possible alternative for the Palestinian people to “get back their land according to the 1967 borders”, which include Gaza and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as the capital.
He stressed that the United States administration has shown “a sincere intention” towards pursuing a peaceful solution to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “After attaining non-member observer status at the United Nations, our relation with the Americans became tepid, but after the latest meetings with [US Secretary of State] John Kerry, the communication is back between us.”
Abbas stated that he and Secretary of State Kerry have discussed the current economic, political and security situation in Palestine, assuring that all three tracks have to “move together. We cannot prioritise one over the other.”
He added that Palestinians need to become economically independent. “We want access to our natural resources,” Abbas said. “The gas in the Mediterranean, petrol in the West Bank and the potash in the Dead Sea, they are all being drilled by the Israelis.”
The Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which caused peace negotiations between the two parties to come to a halt two years ago, is still a contesting issue; on Thursday the BBC reported the Israeli government’s attempts to build four new settlements in the West Bank.
“If the Americans want to help, then the settlement activity has to stop,” Abbas said. He stressed that if it continues, Palestinians, with their current status at the UN, “will have something to say about it”, refusing to elaborate on the kind of response to which he refers.
When asked about an anticipated reconciliation with Hamas, the PLO head said: “There are plans to set up a technocratic government with Hamas and then have legislative elections as agreed upon in the Doha meeting last February.”
Abbas clarified that a proposed land swap discussed between Palestinians and Israelis in a meeting with the Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani and Kerry does not mean that the Palestinians will let their land go. “It should be an equal swap between us and the Israelis; we will not give up our land.”
Abbas criticised a recent visit of Qatari-based Islamic scholar Youssef Al-Qaradawi to Gaza on 9 May. “We were not told of his visit which we are against as it causes more delay to the peace process.”
Al-Qaradawi is viewed by many as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood group.
When asked whether the close affiliation between Hamas and the current Egyptian administration is affecting internal reconciliation efforts, he claimed it is “not an affiliation. Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, but the Egyptian government has shown nothing but willingness to help.”
The Palestinian reconciliation was brokered by the Egyptian government.
Abbas met with President Mohamed Morsi earlier on Thursday at the presidential palace in Cairo to discuss ways of enforcing the reconciliation, reported state-owned news agency MENA.
Abbas also denied media reports that China is sponsoring negotiation efforts to assist the reconciliation between the Palestinian factions.