Mahmoud Abbas: 'Of whom should I be afraid?'
In an interview, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas discusses the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition at the UN; peaceful opposition to Israel; relations with Syria, Turkey, and Iran; Obama's words vs. actions; and his willingness to return to negotiations.
Raghida Dergham, a columnist for the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, is a contributing correspondent to the Global Viewpoint Network. She met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in New York earlier this week. It was the first interview with Abbas following his historic Sept. 23 speech before the UN General Assembly.Skip to next paragraph
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Raghida Dergham: Mr. President, how did you feel at the moment you stood before the General Assembly? At that historic moment as you stood there, how did you feel personally?
Mahmoud Abbas: I felt that we are really witnessing an historic event, that we are before a just and right demand, namely that we want to obtain a state that is a full member of the United Nations, just like other people. I, as I gazed upon the people, felt that if we held a vote we would have had unanimous support. But unfortunately, there are those who want to prevent the Palestinian people from reaching that, and those who want to reject this, and all we can do is to be patient.
Dergham: Are you afraid of the reactions? Is this an adventure that you fear may bring you undesirable consequences?
Abbas: It is not an adventure. On the contrary, it is a well-calculated endeavor. For more than a year, we have discussed this issue and considered it down to the tedious details: Where do we go and how do we go there? We discussed it with Arab countries, which have been fully up to speed, especially the Arab follow-up committee, on every step we have taken. For this reason, we were not maneuvering or playing games, but were instead absolutely clear to everyone. This is our stance, and this is what we want to do. This is not only recorded in the minutes of meetings, but also in our statements.
Dergham: Will a US veto lead you to alternatives that you know of? What will you do? What are your alternatives if the US veto is used?
Abbas: I said that we will now return home and study all possibilities. This means that anything that will be proposed to us, we shall not reject readily, but instead consider in accordance to the ground rules that we hold. In other words, we want to return to the negotiations. But without recognition of the 1967 borders and without a halt to settlement activity, we will not do so. We await the Security Council to resolve the matter in due course through its formal and technical procedures. However, we reject any political games aimed at obstructionism and stalling.