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Global Viewpoint

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.

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Dergham: The Quartet statement the [UN] secretary general told you about includes new ideas, correct?

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Abbas: They presented some ideas and views. We said we would listen to them, discuss them, and then give them our feedback.

Dergham: President Sarkozy has proposed a timetable for negotiations. Are you ready to move forward on that?

Abbas: The negotiations are the first matter, before the timeframe. This is important. But the core issue is the substance. If the substance is appropriate, then yes, a timeframe. We would put a timeframe in place and within which we would conclude the negotiations.

Dergham: Hamas has criticized your speech. While the world was applauding you and giving you a standing ovation, positions were taken and statements were issued against you?

Abbas: From the outset, Hamas said that this move is unilateral and one-sided. True, we perhaps did not consult with them. But the matter should not be, “If you do not consult me then I am against you.” At least I understand the essence of their position. But they have taken pride in erroneousness. They continued to reject and started looking for pretexts, saying that the statement contained contradictions and whatnot. The whole world understood the speech, and yet they say it is full of contradictions. This is regrettable.

Dergham: Why is there talk of dissolving the Palestinian Authority?

Abbas: We are not talking about dissolving the Palestinian Authority.

Dergham: You proposed what is now close to being a civil intifada against the occupation.

Abbas: I did not say intifada. This has existed for some time. The popular and peaceful resistance is present in Bil’in and Ni’lin and elsewhere in Palestinian cities adjacent to the Wall, and it is carried out every week by Palestinians, Israelis, and foreign volunteers. We encourage these popular and peaceful protests, which are not against international law, or anyone for that matter, but only against the occupation, while using peaceful methods. What is required of us? Now, our Arab brethren have taught us with their uprisings and their Spring. They talk about the peacefulness of their protests. And indeed, this has proven to be the most effective way for people to attain their rights.

Dergham: Are you afraid [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu may carry out his threats of taking measures, as it seems he is making threats that may even amount to military action?

Abbas: He can, without making any threats, he can do anything on the military level because we cannot confront him on that level, nor do we want to. If he likes, the doors will be open to him.

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