Abbas to J Street: US must rescind declaration of PLO as terror group
THEN-US VICE-PRESIDENT Joe Biden shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in 2016.
(photo credit: DEBBIE HILL/REUTERS)
"A one-state solution, an apartheid state... is something neither, we nor the entire world would accept. A one-state solution will only perpetuate the conflict," Abbas said.
The Biden administration must rescind the 1987 US determination that the Palestine Liberation Organization is a terror group, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the annual J Street Conference, as he spoke of the steps to re-establish ties between Washington and Ramallah.
“We seek to develop and strengthen bilateral relations with the new US administration for the common interest of both countries and the interest of peace and prosperity in our region,” Abbas said in a virtual address to the US-based gathering.
He explained that ties between the PA and the US were severed when former US President Donald Trump was in the White House, but that the PA now sought to open a new page with the Biden administration.
“However, this requires the elimination of some obstacles, most important of which is removing the PLO name from the terrorism list pursuant to the Congress Anti-Terrorist Act of 1987,” Abbas said as he referenced the legislation that marked the PLO as a terror group.
Most American presidents until Trump had waived the act, thereby allowing for ties between the PLO and the US. Rather than reinstate the waiver, Abbas wants the act to be rescinded.
He asked J Street to help the PA sway the Biden administration and the US Congress “to repeal all laws that block the road toward enhancing Palestinian-US relations.”
Abbas appeared to reference laws put in place during the Trump administration to prevent direct financial assistance to the PA from the American government as long as the PA provided monthly stipends to jailed terrorists and to families of terrorists.
“On our part, we will remove all obstacles to achieve this goal. The continuity of these laws is frustrating and un-constructive,” Abbas said.
Abbas reaffirmed his support for a two-state resolution to the conflict based on the pre-1967 lines.
“We believe in the two-state solution based on pre-June 1967 borders based on international law” with “East Jerusalem as its capital,” Abbas said.
Such a Palestinian capital, Abbas said, would be “an open city for all believers and followers of the three monotheistic religions. Only then will the states of Palestine and Israel be able to prosper and live side by side in peace and security.”
Despite his pledge to re-establish ties with the US, he clarified that he was no longer viewed as the sole broker of a peace process and called instead of negotiation process with Israel led by the Quartet, which is made up of the US, the United Nations and the European Union and Russia.
“We are ready to resume peace negotiations with our Israeli counterpart on the basis of international legitimacy resolution, the signed agreements, and under the auspices of the international Quartet,” Abbas said.
He warned against an entrenched “occupation” and Israeli “apartheid-like” practices and a descent into a one-state solution to the conflict unless negotiations last held in 2014 were resumed.
“Moving away from the two-state solution will eventually lead to a de facto one-state solution, an apartheid state, and this is something neither, we nor the entire world would accept. A one-state solution will only perpetuate the conflict,” Abbas said.
On Friday Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also called on the Palestinians to negotiate a peace deal with Israel. Neither side had put forward a positive peace initiative. The Biden administration has not made resolving the conflict a top priority, nor is it likely that talks could be held until Israel has a government and the PA has held leadership elections this summer.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert also spoke of the importance of a two-state resolution to the conflict, noting that it was the sole solution, when he gave a video address to the J Street conference.
“It has to be realized, and it can be realized,” he said. “I am a firm believer that even today, if the two sides will sit together, we can resolve this conflict on that basis.”
Olmert went on to say that “what we need to do is to agree that the Palestinian state will be established on the basis of the ‘67 borders. There will be some changes in the border, but the total size of territory will remain as it was in 67.” He said that about 5% of the West Bank will be annexed to Israel, “and equal sized territories of what Israel was before 1967 will be part of the Palestinian state.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi addressed the virtual event and said that in Congress, “support for the unbreakable US-Israel relationship remains bipartisan and ironclad.”
“We will continue to pursue a secure peace and prosperity for Israel, the Palestinians, and the region,” Pelosi continued. “Our new unified democratic government is committed to proven diplomatic efforts to advance progress and a lasting peace, to renew our commitment to justice and peace for all who call Israel home.”
She went on to say that the House will continue working to build on the 2019 resolution, which reaffirmed US support for a two-state solution “and that enhances stability and security for Israel, the Palestinian people, and the region.”
“It must be a real solution requiring us to oppose actions by either party that hinder progress,” she said. Pelosi also made a brief comment on the indirect Vienna negotiations between the US and Iran: “At this American political moment, our pro-democracy majority stands with the Biden-Harris administration, as they engage with allies and partners to ensure that Iran never obtains nuclear weapons,” she said.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said that he will make sure that the US remains committed “to strengthening its relationship with Israel, to work for her security and prosperity, and to continue finding ways for Israelis and Palestinians to live together in peace, security and dignity.”
“A safe, secure, and democratic Israel, a two-state solution is what we must continue to advocate for,” said Schumer. “Those who try to use this as a means of scoring political points, do a disservice to both Israel and the United States. Strong bipartisan support is the bedrock of the Israel-US relationship.”