Abbas meets with Jewish leaders


Ami posted the Israel Project’s account of last night’s meeting with Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Authority.

Mahmoud Abbas, the P.A. president, met with Jewish leaders at a Center for Middle East Peace event:

Abbas Meets With Leaders of American Jewish Community

Calls Prime Minister Netanyahu “My Partner in Our Quest for Peace,”

Addresses Settlement Moratorium, Security, Incitement, Hamas, Right of Return, Anti-Semitism

New York, NY—The S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for dinner on Tuesday, September 21, 2010, with over 50 top leaders of the American Jewish community and former American administration officials. The dinner, hosted by Center founder and chairman Dan Abraham and Center president Robert Wexler at the Plaza Hotel, was organized at the request of Abbas, following a dinner hosted by the Center with Abbas and Jewish leaders in Washington DC in May.

Guests included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, and former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer; former Congressmen Mel Levine and Sam Gejdenson; Alan Solow and Malcolm Hoenlein, Chairman and Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Mort Zuckerman, Editor-in-Chief of U.S. News & World Report and former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Robert Sugarman and Abraham Foxman, National Chair and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League; Steve Savitsky, President of the Orthodox Union; Daniel S. Mariaschin, Executive Vice President of B’nai Brith International; Ronald Lauder, Chairman of the Jewish National Fund; Kathy Manning, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America; Jerry Levin and Alisa Robbins Doctoroff, President and Chair of the Board of the UJA Federation of New York; Martin Raffel, Senior Vice President of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service; Robert Bernstein, founder of Human Rights Watch; and other American Jewish community leaders and foreign policy scholars.

Abbas framed the meeting as an opportunity “to communicate with you directly without mediators. I would like for us to engage in a dialogue where we listen to each other and where I can respond to your question, because I trust we have one mutual objective to achieve peace.”

Abbas described Prime Minister Netanyahu as “my partner in our quest for peace,” saying that “this is the time to make the difficult and courageous decisions. We should not allow those who oppose peace to keep us hostages in their hands. Peace ultimately will prevail.” He characterized Netanyahu’s recent comments about the Palestinian right to sovereignty as “encouraging. It would encourage us to go ahead to the bridge the gaps.”

Though Abbas said he would not violate the confidentiality of the current negotiations, he laid out a clear vision of his objectives: “The establishment of independent Palestinian state that can live side-by-side with the state of Israel in peace and security on the borders of 1967 with agreed swaps. And a resolution to all the permanent status issues. Security will be guaranteed by a third party accepted by both to be deployed on the Palestinian side. We want a just resolution for the refugees problem agreed by the two parties as stipulated by the Arab Peace Initiative.” 

Abbas stipulated that “we accept the state of a demilitarized Palestine,” and expressed his willingness to allow Jewish soldiers to participate in a third-party security force within Palestinian territory. When asked if he is willing to compromise on the right of return for Palestinian refugees, Abbas said, “We have to discuss it. We have a problem. We have a problem of five million refugees and I am one of them. Let us say that we want to solve this problem. What’s so important about this issue is that nobody can impose on the other while they are negotiating any issue.” 

When asked about the likelihood of Prime Minister Netanyahu not extending the settlement construction moratorium, Abbas said, “I cannot say I will leave the negotiations, but it’s very difficult for me to resume talks if Prime Minister Netanyahu declares that he will continue his activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem.” 

In response to a question about recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, Abbas said, “If the Israeli people want to name themselves whatever they want, they are free to do so.” He said he would accept Israel’s characterization as a Jewish state if the Israeli Knesset voted to designate the state as such. Abbas reiterated the Jewish people’s historical connection to the Middle East, as well as the historical tragedy of the Holocaust. “For that I sent my Ambassador in Poland to attend the memorial of Auschwitz and I sent my Ambassador to Moscow to attend that meeting called by the High Rabbi of Russia. We are not ashamed to do this because we believe that it was a crime against humanity. And we want these crimes not to be repeated.”

Abbas condemned the spread of anti-Semitism across the world. “We are against those heretics who try to say something anti-Semitic,” he said. “If I insult the Jews I would not be Muslim.” He also condemned statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to destroy Israel. “Our opinion is that a state should be created, not canceled,” he said.

When asked about anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian territories, Abbas said, “I didn’t deny it. But I can say there is some incitement on the other side. It doesn’t mean we have to exchange blame and accusations here and there. We want to put an end to this incitement since 11 years we agreed upon the establishing trilateral group to deal with all kinds of incitement and we are ready to get eliminate any incitement from our side decided by this community and of course the same should operate from the Israeli side.” 

Abbas expressed his understanding of Israel’s security concerns, and how those concerns are shared by Palestinians. “We know the Israelis want to live inside their borders, inside secure borders, they want their families to feel that they are secure, no suicide bombers, I know that they want peace and they want security. If you ask me how that in three or four years until now no single event comes from the West Bank, why? I’ll tell you it’s because we decided to cooperate with the Israeli side, and we prevent anybody from doing anything against Israel, because the security of Israel is our security,” Abbas said. “The goal of maintaining law and order is in Palestinians’ interest.”

Abbas emphasized the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers full diplomatic recognition of Israel by the countries of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference once peace is reached with the Palestinians. “We are not only looking for a peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, we are looking for a peace with all the Arab and all the Muslims,” Abbas said. “We are working very hard on this.”

In response to a question about Hamas, Abbas said, “I have heard some encouraging statements that they accept ’67 borders, and they are ready if Israel wants to talk to them. They will talk to Israel. But anyhow we have a problem with Hamas. Leave this problem to us. Let us focus on the final agreement between us and the Israelis and after that we will handle this issue internally.”

Abbas said that all parties involved need “to listen to our hearts, to our minds, to our grandchildren’s demands, requirements, what they want and need – the children in Israel, the children in Palestine. If we misread their messages, we are not going to achieve a peace. We tell our people that we will be criminals on both sides if we do not reach peace for the sake, not for us – we are old men, we will make peace for the new generations, for our grandsons in the region,” he said. “We believe that our children and grandchildren deserve a better future for peace, prosperity, dignity, and security.”

Recommended from JTA