Palestinian president tells Venezuelan lawmakers that 10-month halt in settlement construction ‘doesn’t bring anything new because occupation will continue in West Bank and Jerusalem’.
from Associated Press
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas dismissed an Israeli plan to temporarily halt new construction of West Bank settlements as insufficient on Friday, saying Palestinians don’t accept Israel’s tack in trying to restart peace negotiations. The Palestinian president said during his first visit to Venezuela that “we can’t accept the current Israeli government’s concept for the negotiations.”
“We don’t have any condition to restarting negotiations except the commitment of the two sides to the foundations of the peace operation according to the road map, and especially stopping the expansionist activities of the Israelis,” Abbas told lawmakers, speaking through an interpreter.
He said Wednesday’s announcement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of a 10-month halt to new construction in West Bank Jewish settlements “didn’t bring anything new because the occupation is going to continue in the West Bank and in Jerusalem.”
“The Israeli prime minister had to choose between peace and occupation.” Abbas said. “Lamentably, he chose occupation.”
Abbas earlier visited Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay to build support for efforts toward a Palestinian state. Latin American leaders backed his calls for Israel to halt settlement construction and also to guarantee that future borders are based on the borders of 1967. Netanyahu says such matters must be resolved in negotiations.
The Palestinian leader was to meet later with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has stepped squarely into Middle East politics this week by hosting both Abbas and the president of Iran. Chavez denounced Israel as “a murderous arm of the Yankee empire” during a visit Wednesday by Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Chavez threatened by Peres?
Chavez has been strengthening ties with Israel’s adversaries while trading verbal barbs with President Shimon Peres, who predicted last week in Argentina that the people of Venezuela and Iran will soon get rid of their leaders.
“They won’t hold, not because any of us is going to kill them; their own people are getting tired of them,” Peres said.
Chavez interpreted that as a threat. “The president of Israel comes here to South America, and he immediately opens fire against us and against me saying I’m going to disappear soon,” Chavez told reporters Wednesday. “Well, let’s see who disappears first.”
Peres spokeswoman Ayelet Frisch has denied the president threatened anyone, saying he meant Venezuelans and Iranians will replace their leaders by democratic means. Chavez broke diplomatic ties with Israel in January to protest Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. In April, Palestinian officials opened a diplomatic mission in Venezuela, saying it would be a diplomatic hub in South America.
Abbas told Venezuela’s National Assembly that the long history of Mideast negotiations has shown in the past that Israel “doesn’t want peace.”
“The Palestinian people, like the rest of the peoples of the world, want to live free, peacefully, independent,” Abbas said. “When is the world going to hear us?”
Chavez has repeatedly condemned Israel as a “genocidal” government, though he has also assured Jews living in Venezuela he wants to maintain good relations with them.
You can also read the Statement of PM Netanyahu and the response from U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, here.