Cairo: The talks between Israel and Palestine are due to resume in Washington after a three-year gap and the President of Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has laid out his vision for the final status of Israeli-Palestinian relations ahead of peace talks as he demanded that no Israeli settlers or border forces could remain in a future Palestinian state and that Palestinians deem illegal all Jewish settlement building within the land occupied in the 1967 Six Days War.
The forceful statements appeared to challenge mediator US Secretary of State John Kerry’s hopes that the terms of the talks be kept secret. Abbas briefed Egyptian journalists, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands.”
“An international, multinational presence like in Sinai, Lebanon and Syria – we are with that,” he said, referring to United Nations peacekeeping operations in those places.
Abbas was in Cairo to meet with Egypt’s interim President Adli Mansour nearly a month after the country’s armed forces ousted his elected predecessor, Mohamed Morsi. He also discussed with senior Egyptian intelligence figures relations between the two governments and the easing of movement of goods and people between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
Israel has previously said that it wants to maintain a military presence in the West Bank at the border with Jordan to prevent any influx of weapons that could be used against it. But Abbas said that he stood by understandings. He also said that he reached with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, predecessor to more right-wing leader Binyamin Netanyahu, that NATO forces could deploy there “as a security guarantee to us and them.”
The United States is seeking to broker an agreement on a two-state solution in which Israel would exist peacefully alongside a new Palestinian state created in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The talks will be conducted by senior aides to Netanyahu – Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho – and to Abbas – represented by Saeb Erekat and Mohammed Ishtyeh. On the future of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem – among the most contentious issues facing the two sides – Abbas signaled no softening of his stance.
“We’ve already made all the necessary concessions,” he said. “East Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine ... if there were and must be some kind of small exchange (of land) equal in size and value, we are ready to discuss this – no more, no less,” he added.
Before agreeing to return to talks last week, Palestinian officials were adamant that negotiations should have three main prerequisites: the release of veteran Arab prisoners in Israeli jails, a full settlement freeze and an acknowledgment of the 1967 lines as the basis for future borders. Israel has publicly granted only one of those demands when its cabinet on Sunday voted to approve the phased release of 104 Arab prisoners.
Abbas said on Monday that he refused to endorse any half-measure whereby he would let Israel freeze construction in smaller, more far-flung settlements but allow it to build in the larger and more populous “blocs” closer to the 1967 lines.
Abbas said, “There was a request, ‘We’ll only build here, what do you think?’ If I agreed, I would legitimize all the rest (of the settlements). I said no. I said out loud and in writing that, to us, settlements in their entirety are illegitimate.”