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Abbas: Netanyahu Chose Settlements Over Peace

By The Daily Star

Via The Daily Star (Click for Original)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose settlement building over peace, the Palestinian president said in a rare meeting Sunday with dozens of Israeli lawmakers, former generals and peace activists.
“He chose settlements over peace,” Abbas told the delegation, which included activists from Netanyahu’s Likud Party, a confidant of the founder of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party and several ultra-Orthodox journalists. “I don’t understand choosing settlements as more important than peace for us and for the coming generations,” he added.
Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the first for nearly two years, began in Washington on September 2. But they quickly stalled, when a 10-month Israeli settlement freeze expired on September 26.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Saturday the leadership would not unilaterally declare independence, even if they do not reach a peace deal with Israel.
“What we’re looking for … is a state of Palestine, we’re not looking for yet another declaration of statehood,” he told Israel’s Channel Two television.
“We’re not looking for a Mickey Mouse state, we’re not looking for some form of self-rule, we’re looking for a sovereign state of Palestine, where we Palestinians can live as free people.”
In his remarks Sunday, Abbas reassured his audience that under his leadership, Palestinians remain committed to nonviolence and that he is sincere about reaching a peace agreement.
Netanyahu has urged Abbas to resume direct talks that broke down in September, but Abbas has said he cannot do so without a freeze in Israeli settlement building. “We are ready to conclude peace, to have our state in the 1967 borders,” he said.
Abbas added that the Palestinians have undergone a transformation since their uprising and Israel’s harsh reprisals left thousands dead. “We changed the culture of terror and violence into a culture of peace and stability here in the West Bank in the last four years,” he said. “We do not want to miss this opportunity,” he told the Israelis. “Please help us not to miss it. I have eight grandchildren. I want a peaceful life for them.”
Amram Mitzna, a former leader of Israel’s Labor Party, said he believed Israeli public opinion has become more accepting of the idea of Palestinian statehood.
“The historic debate over what should be the agreement between us and the Palestinians is behind us,” he said. “Therefore, this meeting is important. It gives hope, despite a difficult reality.” Still, Israelis remain deeply divided over a possible partition of Jerusalem and the extent of possible land concessions.