According to a report in the Jerusalem Post today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) told one of the official Palestinian daily newspapers, Al-Ayyam, that in last weeks resumed “direct talks” with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyanu and company in Washington that ” ‘We clarified that [the Palestinian Authority] would not agree to continued Israeli presence, military or civil, within a future Palestinian state,” Abbas said … Abbas continued, ‘Borders is the topic most important to us, security is the topic most important to them’. He went on to explain that the issues of borders and security would be discussed first and that “right of return” of Palestinian refugees was of lower importance and would be dealt with later on in the talks”. This story is posted here.
In this account, AbuMazen seemed to be echoing some of the sentiments expressed by Fatah’s Mohammad Dahlan in an interview published yesterday in the Egyptian paper Al-Masry al-Youm, here.
In the interview, Dahlan said: “We support president Abu Mazen’s positions, and there are no differences within the Palestinian leadership over the methods to be adopted. I contributed to the Camp David negotiations, and I believe we do not need more talks as much as we need political decisions. Abu Mazen has already made historic moves, but Netanyahu is not mature enough to take another step. Rather, he is rather working to sabotage the two-state idea. That being said, we support President Abu Mazen in principle since he is representing the entire Palestinian nation. But the way the US convened for the negotiations, ignoring the EU and following conditions set by Netanyahu, represents an unhappy start. I am totally convinced that these talks will not prove fruitful, and I am sure the Palestinian people would agree with me”.
Here are some further excerpts:
Al-Masry: Netanyahu is adamant on the “Jewish identity” of Israel and on the issue of Israeli security. He has also challenged the right for return for Palestinian refugees. Can peace be realized in these circumstances?
Dahlan: “This is not peace, this is surrender. Not a single Palestinian will agree to Netanyahu’s conditions. The Israeli PM is a liar–he is not seeking peace. He will maintain his habit of ruining the peace process and will eventually bring destruction down on the whole region. As for us, we will keep adhering to our longstanding principles, spelled out by former president Yasser Arafat in 1988, which were re-emphasized at Camp David. If Netanyahu is seeking surrender, let him look for it elsewhere”.
Al-Masry: Can a disarmed Palestinian state ever emerge in this context?
Dahlan: “That’s a precondition we refuse. But at the same time, we are not seeking a state saddled with tanks and aircraft. We will invest in the Palestinian people after they endured 60 years of hardship by improving education, upgrading infrastructure, caring for the youth, developing the economy, and adopting a health system capable of handling the catastrophes wrought by the occupation. But we will not accept a state according to Netanyahu’s terms”.
Al-Masry: As for the direct talks now unfolding in Washington, what do you expect in terms of the post-negotiation stage?
Dahlan: “I do not hold high hopes for these talks. They are more like a party than a political process. We will argue again about all the same issues that we have always wrangled over. No doubt the same differences will emerge: over final statues issues, time schedules, deadlines and references for negotiations”.
The bottom line is, nonetheless: what can appear to be disparate Palestinian voices are actually all saying more or less the same things.