Abbas threatens to resign if subject to pressure in direct talks with Israel

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to resign his post if he was subjected to pressure in direct negotiations with Israel that began last week in Washington.

In an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper on Tuesday, Abbas said: "If I am subjected to any pressures to concede on the border or refugee issues–or any of the other core issues–during direct talks, I will pick up my bags and leave. I will not agree to any concessions regarding Palestinian rights."

Referring to the 2000 Al-Aqsa Intifada, he said, "It ruined us and ruined everything we built and that was built before us."

"What is expected from the Arabs and Gulf States at this time is their political, economic and financial support," Abbas added. "The PA will give them a clear picture of everything that is going on and we expect the Gulf States to support us."

The US-backed PA president went on to express disappointment in Arab leaders who, during earlier negotiations, had pledged a total of US$500 million to the PA for the maintenance of Jerusalem's "Arab and Islamic identity," of which the PA had "not received not one penny."

When asked about the Gaza Strip, governed by Palestinian resistance faction Hamas since mid-2007, Abbas said, "We will not leave Gaza to Hamas, just as we will not give up the West Bank to Hamas or to anyone else."

"Everyone knows the conditions that led to the takeover [of the Gaza Strip] and which caused this division," he added. "We decided against armed conflict with our brothers and instead will resort to discussions in order to end the division."

In early 2006, Hamas swept democratically-held Palestinian legislative elections, receiving a popular mandate for its policy of armed resistance against Israel. The group took over the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Abbas one year later in a preemptive coup. Abbas' term as PA president expired last January.

Abbas expressed doubt that the current US-mediated peace talks with Israel would lead to a mutually-acceptable agreement. In statements made to the Palestinian press, Abbas said: "What I've seen in Washington has made me decide to carry on with these negotiations and seriously try to arrive at some sort of agreement."

Abbas called on the United States to intervene on the issue of Israeli settlement building, especially in light of the fact that a ten-month Israeli moratorium on the construction of Jewish-only settlements on occupied Arab land will expire on 26 September. Israeli officials, for their part, have said the  moratorium would not be extended.

Abbas has threatened to withdraw from the peace negotiations if the moratorium was not extended.

Meanwhile, at a meeting with a delegation of US Congressmen, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was optimistic about the prospects for reaching agreement with the Palestinians despite significant differences on core issues. Nevertheless, he stressed the importance of maintaining Israel's Jewish majority and preempting the establishment of a hostile Palestinian entity that could threaten the self-proclaimed Jewish state.  

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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