Stop settlement constructions and we will talk, Abbas tells Israel

Stop settlement constructions and we will talk, Abbas tells Israel
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas. (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)
Updated 28 December 2016

Stop settlement constructions and we will talk, Abbas tells Israel

Stop settlement constructions and we will talk, Abbas tells Israel

WASHINGTON: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday said he is ready to resume peace talks if Israel halts its settlement expansion on Palestinian lands.
In his first response to Secretary of State John Kerry’s Mideast policy speech, Abbas said that he is ready to resume talks “within a specific time frame and on the basis of international law.”
He said that would include a reference to the UN Security Council resolution passed last week, over Israel’s objections, that declared settlement construction illegal.
Abbas’ comments reiterated longstanding Palestinian positions and did not address the six principles for peace Kerry outlined in his speech.
The Palestinians object to calls to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jews, saying it would undermine the rights of Israel’s Arab minority and the claims of Palestinian refugees whose families lost properties in what is now Israel.

Balanced speech
A prominent Israeli opposition politician gave a warm reception to Kerry’s speech.
Yaakov Peri, a former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, praised what he called Kerry’s “balanced speech, based on reality and facts.”
Peri says the secretary of state drew attention to the “harsh and dramatic consequences” of a single binational state.
Peri is a member of the centrist Yesh Atid party, which sits in the opposition. But his words carry significant weight given his experience battling Palestinian militants.

Defiance
Israel’s prime minister, on the other hand, called Kerry’s Mideast policy speech a “great disappointment.”
In live broadcast on Israeli TV, Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Kerry for a speech highly critical of Israel at a time when he said the region is “going up in flames.”
Netanyahu in Hebrew says: “For a full hour, the secretary of state attacked the only democracy in the Middle East..”
He accused Kerry of focusing heavily on Israeli settlements, while paying little attention to Palestinian incitement and violence.
A top official in the West Bank settler movement dismissed Kerry’s speech as a “eulogy to the two-state solution.”
Oded Revivi, the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha settlers’ council, said Kerry’s address had no new ideas and was a “self-serving legacy speech” that ignored Israeli security needs.
Revivi says: “There is no moral equivalence between Israeli building and Arab bombing. Israeli homes do not pose a threat to peace, Palestinian terror does.”
He says Israel cannot allow a “potential terror state” to be established on its front step.