Bibi Skeptical on 'Right of Return' Concession

Unsure of Broad Meaning of Mahmoud Abbas Interview

By Reuters

Published November 04, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced scepticism on Sunday at an apparent concession from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on a major sticking point in any future peace negotiations.

Abbas’s comments on Thursday that he had no permanent claim on the town of Safed, from which he was driven during a 1948 war, were widely seen as hinting he was dropping a demand for a right of return of Palestinian refugees to homes now in Israel.

“I watched President Abbas’s interview at the weekend, and I heard that since then he has already managed to recant,” Netanyahu told his cabinet, urging Abbas to return to direct peace negotiations, suspended since 2010, to clarify his positions.

Abbas’s remarks, to Israeli Channel 2 TV, were also interpreted by some commentators as an attempt to soften his defiance of Israel and the United States over his plans to ask the U.N. General Assembly to upgrade the Palestinians to a non-member state.

Touching on the refugee question - one of the most emotional issues for Palestinians in their dispute with Israel - Abbas told Channel 2 television: “I visited Safed before, once. But I want to see Safed. It’s my right to see it, but not live there.”

But on Saturday, Abbas appeared to pull back from his comments to Channel 2, telling Egypt’s al-Hayat television in Arabic: “Speaking about Safed was a personal position and it did not mean conceding the right of return.”

Abbas has been refusing to resume peace talks with Israel unless it halts settlement building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, construction that Palestinians say will deny them a viable state. He has however promised to return to negotiations immediately after the U.N. status upgrade vote.

Washington also wants Israel to halt settlement building, but backs its call for Abbas to return to talks rather than seek statehood at the United Nations first. Abbas could face punitive U.S. and Israeli sanctions if, as expected, he wins U.N. approval for the unilateral move.

PERES PRAISE

Israeli President Shimon Peres, a Nobel Peace laureate who has little influence on the policies of Netanyahu’s right-wing government, swiftly praised Abbas over his Channel 2 interview.

“(His) courageous words prove that Israel has a real partner for peace,” Peres said in a statement.

But in the Gaza Strip, seized by Hamas Islamists from Abbas’s Fatah group in 2007, thousands rallied against the Palestinian leader. Hamas said no one can “cede the right of return” or “a single tract of the land of Palestine”.

Palestinians have demanded that as many as five million of their compatriots - original war refugees and their descendants - be granted the right of return to towns and villages that became part of Israel after its founding in 1948.

Israel, saying an influx of refugees would eliminate its Jewish majority, has proposed that refugees be resettled in a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories it occupied in a 1967 war.

Addressing his cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu said Abbas should re-engage without preconditions.

“Peace can be advanced only around the negotiating table, and not through unilateral resolutions at the U.N. General Assembly, which will only put peace further away and bring about instability,” Netanyahu said.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose far-right Yisrael Beitenu party is running jointly with Netanyahu’s Likud in a Jan 22 general election that opinion polls show the prime minister will win, said Abbas “can no longer deliver the goods” since he lost Gaza to Hamas.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.