Sunday 17 December 2017

Palestinians reject offer of partial statehood

Abbas says proposal for half of the West Bank recently raised at talks

PALESTINE: Mahmoud Abbas
PALESTINE: Mahmoud Abbas


PALESTINIAN President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday rejected the establishment of a Palestinian state within temporary borders, an idea he said was recently raised for restarting peace talks.

In a speech to leaders of his Fatah movement, Mr Abbas urged Israel to resume serious negotiations on the terms of full Palestinian statehood, adding that such talks should wrap up within two years.

Israel and the Palestinians remain far apart on the framework for such talks, and US Mideast envoy George Mitchell returned to the region on Friday for a new push to narrow the divide.

The US has proposed indirect talks in which Mitchell would shuttle between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. However, the Palestinians say they won't engage unless Israel agrees not to start new housing projects for Jews in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem, the sector of the city claimed by the Palestinians as a future capital. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected a building freeze in east Jerusalem.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. They also seek a freeze of all settlement construction before a resumption of direct peace talks.

In his speech, Mr Abbas referred to recent proposals for a temporary state but did not elaborate. "Frankly, we will not accept the state with temporary borders, because it is being offered these days," he said.

He said the Palestinians were being asked to "take a state with provisional borders on 40 or 50 per cent, and after that we will see."

An Israeli newspaper reported earlier this week that Mr Netanyahu had made such a proposal. However, Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh and an Israeli government official both denied that Israel formally presented the idea.

A Palestinian academic said Israel offered Abbas such a state on more than 50 per cent of the West Bank. The academic said he served as a go-between for the two sides.

A Palestinian state with provisional borders is part of the US-backed "road map" peace plan as an interim step toward full independence.

The temporary state would only be established on parts of the territory the Palestinians want for their state. However, the road map never got off the ground and the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected provisional statehood, fearing the temporary borders would become the final ones.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also brushed aside the notion when asked about it on Friday. "So there's a lot of ideas that have been floated around, but at the end of the day it's only the Israelis and Palestinians who can make decisions for themselves," she said.

Mr Abbas, meanwhile, called for an open dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, saying time for a so-called two-state solution was running out, despite strong support on both sides.

"I call for an open dialogue with all Israeli factions, leaders, an open dialogue," he said. "We're ready for dialogue, we know the overwhelming majority of Israelis support the two-state solution."

Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip yesterday, Israeli gunfire wounded two Palestinians and a woman from Malta who were among a group of protesters marching toward the border with Israel, according to Palestinian health official Moawiya Hassanain.

The military confirmed the shooting, and said soldiers opened fire to get protesters away from the border fence.

In recent months, farmers and foreign supporters have frequently marched to the border to protest the restrictions.

Sunday Independent

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