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Abbas tells Israeli TV: No intifada on my watch

Nov. 1, 2012 10:58 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 4, 2012 12:46 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- President Mahmoud Abbas assured Israelis that he will not allow a new uprising against the occupation, in an interview with Israel's Channel 2 TV on Thursday.

Some Israeli government officials have voiced skepticism about Abbas's ability to deliver a peace accord, after he lost control of Gaza to Hamas in a brief civil war in 2007.

Abbas sought to play up his security control over Palestinian-run areas of the West Bank, saying that as long as he was in power "there will no armed, third armed Intifada (revolt against Israel). Never."

"We don't want to use terror. We don't want to use force. We don't want to use weapons. We want to use diplomacy. We want to use politics. We want to use negotiations. We want to use peaceful resistance. That's it."

Abbas was also regarded as making a symbolic concession to Israel, saying he had no permanent claim on the town from which he was driven as a child during the 1948 war to found Israel.

Speaking to the top-rated Israeli television newscast, Abbas was asked whether he wanted to live in Safed, his boyhood town in the Galilee region of what had been British-ruled Palestine and is now northern Israel.

"I visited Safed before once. But I want to see Safed. It's my right to see it, but not to live there," Abbas told Channel 2, speaking in English from the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"Palestine now for me is '67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever ... This is Palestine for me. I am (a) refugee, but I am living in Ramallah. I believe that (the) West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts (are) Israel."

Palestinian refugees demand that as many as five million of their compatriots be granted the right to return to lands in Israel that they fled or were driven from in 1948.

Israel rules this out, and argues the refugees should resettle in a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories it occupied in the 1967 war.

Ceding the right of return?

In Gaza, Hamas denounced Abbas, saying he spoke only for himself.

"No Palestinian would accept ceding the right of our people to return to homes, villages and towns from which they were displaced," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

"If Abu Mazen (Abbas) does not want Safed, Safed would be honored not to host people like him."

Palestinian memoranda leaked to the media last year showed that Abbas had, during talks with the previous, centrist Israeli government, been willing to concede on some core demands -- including by accepting a cap on refugees admitted to Israel.

The televised remarks also appeared aimed at influencing Israelis ahead of their Jan. 22 legislative election.

Polls currently predict an easy win for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a rightist who says he wants to restart talks with Abbas but who has championed Jewish settlement of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Abbas says he cannot negotiate while continuous settlement building eats up land needed for an independent Palestinian state.

Netanyahu's office had no immediate comment on the interview, which was aired as the prime minister returned from a visit to France.

Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, said the onus remained on Abbas to return to negotiations:

"If he (Abbas) wants to see Safed, or anywhere else in Israel, for that matter, we would happily show him anywhere. But there has to be a desire to move forward on the peace process."

As Abbas is not an Israeli citizen, Hirschson added, "he doesn't have a right to live in Israel. We agree on that."
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