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!
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • 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.