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Abbas: Palestine has gotten nothing out of peace talks

Jan. 19, 2014 10:44 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 21, 2014 1:57 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that despite US Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts, Palestine has so far gotten nothing out of the ongoing peace negotiations with Israel.

"The problem is with the Israeli side and not with us," Abbas said in an interview on Moroccan television following the Al-Quds Committee meeting in Marrakesh.

He spoke the same day Israeli army radio announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had proposed to Kerry that Israel annex a fourth settlement bloc within the West Bank, amounting to approximately 13 percent of the internationally recognized Palestinian territory.

Abbas called this kind of shift in borders "unacceptable."

Calling Israeli settlers "invaders" with "no right" to Palestinian land, he stressed that Palestinians living inside what is now Israel "were on the land 1,500 years before Israel was established."

This is why Palestine can never recognize Israel as a "Jewish state," Abbas said.

"We demand is what was given to us by the international community" in 1967, he added, though he acknowledged that limited land swaps would be acceptable.

'Try me, and then we can talk'

Nevertheless, the head of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority was not as pessimistic about reconciliation with Hamas.

If Hamas agrees to hold elections, there will be reconciliation "tomorrow," Abbas said.

He said Hamas has "used the excuse" that the Americans and Israelis -- who consider the Islamist faction a "terrorist organization" -- would refuse to negotiate with the PLO if Hamas were included, and thus would pressure Abbas against reconciliation.

"We will not take the Americans and Israelis into consideration," Abbas said. "To (Hamas) I say try me, and then we can talk."

Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians were relaunched in July under the auspices of the US after nearly three years of impasse.

Israel's government has announced the construction of thousands of housing units in illegal settlements since peace talks began.

The division between Hamas and Fatah began in 2006, when Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections.

In the following year, clashes erupted between the two factions, leaving Hamas in control of the Strip and Fatah in control of parts of the occupied West Bank.

The groups have made failed attempts at national reconciliation for years, most recently in 2012, when they signed two agreements -- one in Cairo and a subsequent one in Doha -- which have as of yet been entirely unimplemented.
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