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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Abbas: Olmert agreed that East Jerusalem should be Palestinian-ruled


Ramallah – Ma'an Exclusive – Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has accepted that East Jerusalem should be placed under Palestian control, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday.
In addition, Israel has recognized the existence of only 200,000 Palestinian refugees from the violence at its creation in 1948, Abbas said.
Abbas said this recognition took place in secret final-status negotiations with Israeli negotiators. Israel's acknowledgment of these refugees falls short of the list of 950,000 refugees the Palestinian Authority says were expelled in 1948, along with five million total refugees and their descendants, the Palestinian president claimed.
Abbas revealed this and other information about the negotiations with Israel and with his Palestinian rival, the Hamas movement, during a two-hour meeting with senior Fatah officials in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Abbas said the Palestinian leadership takes the negotiations seriously: "Those who think that we sit with Israelis for sake of publicity; they are wrong."
"We armed ourselves with documents, maps, data and statistics ahead of each session and we have a fortified, professional expert negotiating team. We get prepared each time as if studying before class at school," he said.
Abbas said that he had rejected an Israeli offer of a Palestinian state that would include 92% of the land of the West Bank, saying that he would not accept any deal that left out even 1% of the land.
Abbas also explained that Israel had hesitated to make a firm commitment to the pre-1967 borders during the negotiations. However, in recent meetings, Israeli leaders had finally accepted that occupied East Jerusalem ought to be a part of the Palestinian State.
He said: "Whenever we asked them about the borders they had usually responded that they are not so sure. Only in the last two sessions they recognized those borders including East Jerusalem, as Olmert explained that a two-state solution is the best choice and Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem should be ruled by PA."
The president also recounted an anecdote about his first meeting with United States President George W. Bush. After presenting the US leader with a map of the West Bank showing the route of the separation wall and other Israeli installments, Bush became angry, throwing the maps in the face of an assistant.
"This way there won't be a Palestinian state and Israel is cutting off the road to a solution," Abbas reported Bush as saying.
Abbas said that when he went to Switzerland he was asked why he rejected Hamas' suggestion of a Palestinian state with temporary borders. He said he replied that he advised Hamas leader Isma'il Haniyeh at the time to stop making such suggestions, as he sees them as harmful to the negotiations with Israel.
He said Hamas's suggestion of a long-term truce with Israel would actually stabilize the current situation, with Palestinians controlling less than 60% of the West Bank and Gaza, and the Israeli wall remaining in place.
Abbas said that Hamas is damaging the Palestinian national cause out of anger of their exclusion from politics, "destroying the game because they are not allowed to play."
Blaming Hamas for the collapse of Palestinian internal talks, Abbas also criticized Israel for refusing to allow Palestinian political leaders from the West Bank representing Fatah, the PFLP, and the DFLP, to travel to the talks in Cairo.
Abbas said that three points must be accepted in order for the dialogue with Hamas to proceed: The presence of Arab forces to support Palestinian security forces, reform of the Palestinian government and simultaneous presidential and legislative elections.
Abbas also said that that the Palestinian prisoners slated for release by Israel before the upcoming Eid Al-Adha holiday include lawmakers and prisoners serving long sentences. 

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