Israel must complete peace deal with Abbas: Peres

Israel must complete peace deal with Abbas: Peres

Israel must complete peace deal with Abbas: Peres

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) and Israeli President Shimon Peres speak in Davos in this 2007 photo. REUTERS photo

President Shimon Peres has urged Israel to resume peace talks with the Palestinians, saying their President Mahmoud Abbas was a willing partner with whom an agreement could be reached.

Speaking with Israeli diplomats at his Jerusalem residence, Peres said on Dec. 30 that the only way Israel could positively affect the fluctuating reality in the region was “to complete the peace agreement with the Palestinians.”

“I know there are different opinions … This is not a matter of ideology, this is a matter of appraising [the situation],” Agence France-Presse reported Peres as saying.

“I have known Abu Mazen for 30 years, and nobody will change my opinion of him,” Peres continued, using Abbas’s nom de guerre. “I know there is criticism of things Abu Mazen said, but there is currently no other Arab leader who is saying he is in favor of peace, against terror, in favor of a demilitarized state, and of ... the Palestinian consensual right of return.”

Talks between the Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since September 2010, with the Palestinians insisting on a settlement freeze before returning to the negotiating table and the Israelis insisting on no preconditions.

“There is not much time left,” Peres warned.

Important to have partner in Israel

Abbas responded to Peres’ comments by saying: “We don’t want to intervene in Israel’s internal affairs, but it’s important there is a partner that believes in peace [in Israel].”

He stressed that he was not interested in delegitimizing Israel but rather the occupation, Israeli ynetnews agency reported on its website. “We want to live as a state alongside Israel, which we have already recognized.”

Abbas again emphasized that the Palestinian Authority under his leadership would not resort to violence. “We bear no arms, but the Israelis are worried that we use political terror. Our weapons are our right and legitimacy, which have been under attack. If Israel agrees to withdraw from the Palestinian and Arab lands then the Arab and Islamic states will be willing to hold diplomatic relations, in accordance with the Arab peace initiative. That is our proposal to the Israeli leaders – to live in peace with the region’s nations,” he said.

Peres’ remarks elicited a harsh response from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, which is contesting the Jan. 22 elections.

“It is very saddening that the president chose to express a personal political opinion that is contrary to the Israeli public’s stance on Abu Mazen, the peace-refuser,” a statement from the party read. Netanyahu himself, however, softened his party’s line a few hours later.

“I respect the president, I value him,” he told Channel 2 television. “There is a variety of opinions and we exchange opinions on topics on the agenda.”