Hamas PM Haniyah snubs land swap deal with Israel
GAZA / JERUSALEM
Palestinian students attend a rally at al-Najah University in Nablus. REUTERS photoHamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah voiced his opposition to the Arab League proposal stating it would be willing to accept the principle of a land swap as part of a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We reject the fresh Arab initiative which accepted land swaps with Zionist occupants [Israel]. Our borders are historic Palestinian borders and belong to us,” Haniyah on May 3 told a group of activists coming from European and Arab states to give a boost to Palestine.
The remarks followed Arab League moves on April 30 to revive and modify its 2002 peace initiative, which drew praise from Washington and Israel’s chief peace negotiator, Tzipi Livni. The Saudi-led proposal, which offers full diplomatic ties with the Arab world in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from land occupied in 1967, now includes a reference to the principle of mutually agreed land swaps.
The Hamas premier noted that this initiative means “taking steps backwards” and would encourage “occupants to carry on Israeli settlements,” according to Anatolia news agency. “Such suggestions wouldn’t help the Palestinian cause,” he said. Haniyah’s statement came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the idea that an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories would bring peace. Meanwhile, a poll published in a Tel Aviv newspaper on May 3 showed that most Israelis are skeptical about the new proposal.Asked if they saw a revised Arab offer of full diplomatic ties in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from land occupied in 1967, with mutually agreed land swaps with the Palestinians, sparking new peace talks, 54.8 percent of respondents answered “no,” Israel Hayom said. Only 17.3 percent said “yes,” while 27.9 percent answered “don’t know.”