Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday told Fatah party officials that 2017 would be “the year of the independent Palestinian state.”
At a torch-lighting ceremony marking the 52nd anniversary of Fatah’s founding, Abbas hailed the recent UN anti-settlement resolution as a diplomatic victory.
“The settlements are illegal, and in recent days, we were given an unprecedented decision regarding this issue,” he told members of his party at the ceremony, held at the grave of former PLO leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, Channel 10 news reported.
The PA president said the Palestinians would not tolerate Israeli efforts to fool the international community, Israel Radio reported, and said that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was building “colonies” in the West Bank and was seeking to perpetuate Israeli rule there, and racist discrimination against the Palestinians.
Nonetheless, the Palestinians were ready to work with the incoming Donald Trump presidency to achieve peace via a two-state solution based on the relevant UN decisions and the Arab Peace Initiative, the radio report said. “We want to emphasize our willingness to work with the newly-elected American administration… to achieve peace… based on a two-state solution,” he said.
Netanyahu has insisted he seeks a two-state accord with Abbas, and is ready to negotiate without preconditions. He has blamed Abbas for the failure of past peace efforts, and insists that the Palestinians must ultimately recognize Israel as a Jewish state — a requirement endorsed by Secretary of State John Kerry in his valedictory address on Wednesday and immediately rejected by the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinians are setting their sights on a Mideast peace conference in France next month in a bid to rally support as they prepare for the uncertainty of the Trump administration.
The Palestinians are hopeful that a strong international endorsement in Paris will insulate them from what they fear will be a close alliance between President-elect Donald Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
With their hopes for gaining independence in a deep freeze, the Palestinians had a rare week of optimism. First, the US allowed the UN Security Council to adopt Resolution 2334, which declared Israeli settlements illegal. Then, Kerry delivered a farewell speech that harshly criticized Israeli settlements, saying Israel’s continued construction was imperiling hopes for a peace agreement and endangering the country’s democracy.
Palestinian officials say they are now counting on the French-hosted Mideast peace conference to build on the momentum and set clear terms of reference for any future negotiations with Israel. Some 70 nations are expected to attend, although Israel and the Palestinians will not be participating.
The Palestinians seek the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, for an independent state. They say that Israeli settlements in these areas (including Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem), now home to about 600,000 Israelis, are threatening their hopes for independence by taking in lands where they hope to establish their state.
The latest UN resolution, along with Kerry’s speech, essentially endorsed the Palestinian position by calling for the pre-1967 lines to serve as the reference point for a final border.
Netanyahu, who opposes a return to the 1967 lines, has condemned the moves as “skewed” and “shameful.” He says all disputes must be settled through direct negotiations without any preconditions, and that any international pressure undermines the negotiating process.
Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rejected suggestions that Israel may unilaterally annex the West Bank Saturday, saying such a course of action would be “a disaster” for the country.
Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett has frequently called to annex the 60% of the West Bank, Area C, where Israel maintains security and civilian control and where most settlements are located. On Thursday he asserted that government policy once President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20 will be to annex the large settlement city of Ma’ale Adumim.