Abbas hits out at Israeli, Hamas obstruction of peace

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Saturday sharply criticized Israel and rival Palestinian group Hamas for obstructing the Arab-Israeli peace process, two days after the Palestinian Authority published advertisements in major Israeli newspapers offering peace in return for a withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, reported dpa.

Speaking at the opening session of the Palestinian Investment Conference in the West Bank city of Nablus, Abbas said that "by not recognizing the rights of our people and not halting settlement construction and military incursions of our cities, Israel is seriously endangering the future of the peace process and undermining our efforts in all fields."

In a unique move to reach out to the Israeli public, the Palestinian Authority on Thursday published advertisements in Israel's three leading dailies, promoting the so-called Arab Peace Plan of 2002.

The full-page adverts, written in Hebrew and bordered by the flags of 57 Muslim states, attempts to explain details of the plan, under the headline that "57 Arab and Muslim countries will establish diplomatic ties and normal relations with Israel, in return for a full peace agreement and an end to the occupation."

However, on Saturday Abbas said the Palestinians and Israelis embarked on a peace process at the Annapolis Middle East Peace Conference in 2007, but that it "has not succeeded so far."

The Annapolis conference called on the Palestinians and Israelis to reach a final peace agreement before the end of 2008.

Abbas claimed that the Palestinians have implemented their obligations according to phase one of the Annapolis peace plan, in containing militias in the Palestinian territories, but Israel has not implemented any of its obligations, including a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and removal of settlement outposts built there without government approval.

"We have done our part and we dare them to say that we have not done so. If not 100 per cent, we have done 90 per cent, or 80 per cent or even 50 per cent. But what did Israel do? Not even one per cent," he said.

"People are asking: Do they (Israel) want peace or not?" said Abbas. "Those who want peace do not act this way. Those who want peace try to bring together people who have been living in hostility for over 100 years, not add more misery to their lives."

Abbas said that by publishing the ads on the Arab peace initiative in the Hebrew newspapers, he was trying to tell the Israeli people that "instead of having a two-state solution, we will have a 58-state solution," in reference to the number of Arab and Islamic countries who have pledged to make full peace agreements with Israel after its withdrawal from all the territories it occupied in the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Abbas urged the Palestinian and Arab businesspeople gathering in Nablus to invest in that region of Palestine, which he said was the hardest hit by Israeli restrictions and military actions for the last eight years.

However, he said, "there cannot be real and sustainable development under occupation," stressing that "escalation in Israeli measures are obstructing our development efforts."

He also called on his arch rival, the militant Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, to return to the dialogue table under Egyptian auspices. He accused Hamas of "wanting to keep its power grip over the Gaza Strip" in its refusal to attend the national reconciliation dialogue talks that were due to start in Cairo last week.

He said he wants the dialogue to reach an agreement on an independent Palestinian government that would end Israeli and international blockades on the Gaza Strip and oversee new legislative and presidential elections.

An Arab foreign ministers' meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 26 in the Egyptian capital Cairo, with the aiming of advancing Palestinian reconciliation.

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