Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has issued a fresh call for reconciliation with Hamas on a day, which marks the fifth death anniversary of iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
At a rally in Ramallah, Mr. Abbas called for Palestinian unity at a time when ties with Israel have soured dramatically since the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s Prime Minister. Mr. Abbas used strong language to stress that Israel was obstructing peace efforts by not accepting a settlement freeze in occupied West Bank including east Jerusalem.
“We see Israel confiscating land, building settlements and Judaising Jerusalem with unprecedented speed ... and then they ask that we return to negotiations,” Mr. Abbas told the huge crowd. “The return to negotiations depends on Israel adhering to the terms of reference of peace and that means halting all settlements, including natural growth and Jerusalem,” he said.
Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, was also blunt in slamming Israel for its alleged role in retarding the peace process. “The moment of truth has come and we have to be frank with the Palestinian people that we have not been able to reach a two-state solution through 18 years of negotiation.”
“We have become convinced that Israel doesn’t want a Palestinian state on lands it occupied in 1967,” he added.
Yasser Arafat led Palestinians for nearly four decades and succeeded in placing Palestinian independence as one of the top items on the global political agenda, before he died in mysterious circumstances at a Paris hospital.