Abbas on Hamas, Netanyhu, and the Roadblocks to Peace

The Palestinian President's recent TV interview made some news

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a news conference in Bogota / Reuters

9-11 Ten Years Later Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made headlines over the weekend for a television interview he did with Israel's Channel 2. The line that got the most attention was Abbas's admission that the Arab rejection of UN Resolution 181 partition plan in 1947 "was our mistake. It was our mistake, it was the Arab mistake as a whole."

But the rest of the interview contains some interesting soundbites as well. He dismissed concerns about Hamas -- and their unwillingness to accept a state of Israel -- as merely politics:

Whether they accept or not they're our opposition. You can see in Israel many parties in Israel who denies the right of Palestinians to live. And they are part of the Israeli community. So Hamas is a part of the opposition. Every country around the world there is an opposition, right? And they accept or deny, or accept or refuse. But at the end there's a government.

He also contradicted Condoleeza Rice's narrative of who is to blame for the breakdown of his negotiations with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:

In those days he disappeared. He stepped down. Olmert, yes. And we were alone until we waited for the elections. And he came, and this man [Netanyahu] came, and nothing happened after that.

Abbas does not mince any words about who he blames for the current breakdown in negotiations:

I met with Shimon Peres three times in Jordan, in Rome, in London. And he proposed to me in July to meet with him in Jordan and I said, "yes, ok." And when I arrived there he made a telephone call for me, "Excuse me, Abu Mazen, I cannot come. I spent three hours with our friend [Netanyahu], I went out empty handed. I cannot cheat you."

Abbas also illustrates the difficulty of the territorial approach to security -- the idea held by some Israelis that Israel must retain control of large swaths of territory in the West Bank in order to protect itself.

It is difficult with [Netanyahu] to launch any kind of negotiations. I spent with him five hours in his house in Jerusalem to convince him let us start with the borders. He said no, I want security. What is his concept concerning security? He wants to stay in Jordan valley and in the heights forty years. This is the end, this is the concept. I told him, I prefer occupation.

Check out the Security presentation launched yesterday on "Is Peace Possible?" for an explanation of how the territorial approach to security is inconsistent with the two-state solution and harms Israel's security interests. You'll also find alternative strategies to protecting Israel that don't require a territorial foothold in the West Bank. 

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Zvika Krieger is a former editor and writer at The New Republic and a former correspondent for Newsweek based in Egypt and Lebanon, covering most of the Arab world. More

Krieger has received fellowships to study topics including the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, the Kifaya reform movement in Egypt, public health in Bombay slums, religious identity in Kashmir, historical memory in Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, and the role of religion in Lebanese politics. He has also reported from such places as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Libya, North Ireland, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Korea. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Slate, New York, Arab Reform Bulletin, New Stateman, Chronicle of Higher Education, Daily Star (Lebanon), Cairo Magazine, Jerusalem Post, Christian Science Monitor, and various other publications, and he has appeared as a Middle East analyst on NBC News, CNN, Fox News, and Air America. His writings have earned him awards from the Overseas Press Club, the Scripps Howard Foundation, and the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. He is a fellow at the Truman National Security Project. He has a bachelor's degree in Middle East Studies from Yale University and studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo.

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