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Abbas: Israeli settlements, tax seizure require new position

Dec. 9, 2012 4:52 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 10, 2012 3:15 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas told an Arab League meeting on Sunday that if Israel continues to build settlements and seize Palestinian tax revenues he will take a "new position" in response.

He made the comments during a speech before the Arab League's Ministerial Committee on the Arab Peace Initiative in Doha, official PA news agency Wafa said, but did not elaborate on new measures or policies he was considering.

Israel's government last week announced settlement expansion projects and seized November tax payments to pay the PA after the UN General Assembly voted to admit Palestine as a non-member observer state.

Abbas told the meeting in Doha on Sunday that a major motive behind the UN bid was to halt Israeli assaults against Palestinians.

He slammed Israel's decision to withhold tax owed to his government. "Whenever it is upset with anybody in the world, Israel withholds Palestinian money, and they don’t have a right to do that," he said.

The president also emphasized the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative, introduced by Saudi Arabia in 2002 and approved at several regional summits.

"The initiative actually cornered both Israel and the Western world by simply accepting that if Israel withdraws from Arab and Palestinian lands, all 57 Arab and Islamic countries will normalize relations with Israel," Abbas said.

He pledged to make reconciliation with Hamas a top priority, and said the next step was for the Hamas government to allow the elections commission to resume preparations in Gaza for a national vote.

Abbas also referred to efforts to write a Palestinian constitution. "We have a semi-project and when we finish it we hope to learn your evaluation of this constitution before we announce it," he told the meeting.
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