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On Channel 2, Abbas sought to play up his security control over Palestinian-run areas of the West Bank, saying that as long as he was in power “there will no armed, third armed Intifada (revolt against Israel). Never.”
“We don’t want to use terror. We don’t want to use force. We don’t want to use weapons. We want to use diplomacy. We want to use politics. We want to use negotiations. We want to use peaceful resistance. That’s it.”
Netanyahu’s office had no immediate comment on the interview, which was aired as the prime minister returned from a visit to France. Israel has long blamed Abbas for the stalled diplomacy, saying his insistence it freeze settlements - which are widely viewed as illegal abroad - amounted to preconditions.
Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said the onus remained on Abbas to return to negotiations:
“If he (Abbas) wants to see Safed, or anywhere else in Israel, for that matter, we would happily show him anywhere. But there has to be a desire to move forward on the peace process.”
As Abbas is not an Israeli citizen, Hirschson added, “he doesn’t have a right to live in Israel. We agree on that.”
In Gaza, Hamas denounced Abbas, saying he spoke only for himself. The Islamist movement does not recognise Israel and has regularly exchanged fire with it.
“No Palestinian would accept ceding the right of our people to return to homes, villages and towns from which they were displaced,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
“If Abu Mazen (Abbas) does not want Safed, Safed would be honoured not to host people like him.”
Secret Palestinian memoranda leaked to the media last year showed that Abbas had, during talks with the previous, centrist Israeli government, been willing to concede on some core demands - including by accepting a cap on refugees admitted to Israel.
Under Netanyahu, Israel has campaigned for the hundreds of thousands of Jews who it took in from Arab countries after the 1948 war to be recognised as refugees, proposing they be seen as a demographic counter-balance to dispossessed Palestinians.