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Israel mixed on Palestinian call for peace

  |   Nov. 4, 2012 at 8:04 AM
RAMALLAH, West Bank, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Israeli leaders gave a mixed reception to calls by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to renew peace talks with Israel.

President Shimon Peres lauded Abbas, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other government ministers, as well as Hamas, rejected the Palestinian leader's words.

Speaking on Israel Radio Sunday morning, Homeland Security Minister Avi Dichter accused Abbas of playing a double game. "His Channel 2 interview in English was clearly slated for an American audience, later in an interview in Arabic he said something entirely different, which shows he is not a partner for peace," Dichter said.

In Friday's interview in his Ramallah office, Abbas said as long as he is president there will never be armed resistance, a third intifada against Israel. "There is no justification for rockets from Gaza or anywhere else," Abbas said. "Rockets attacks are in vain because they do not bring peace any closer."

The Palestinians want to complete negotiations on the two-state solution, based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, Abbas said.

"Can he [Netanyahu] do it now? And tomorrow I will go and sit with him," he declared. Abbas said the future Palestinian state includes the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. He said he would like to visit his birthplace Safed, a city in northern Israel, but does not want to live there. "This is now and forever. This is Palestine for me. I am a refugee, but I am living in Ramallah. I believe that the West Bank and Gaza are Palestine and the other part is Israel."

Peres said Abbas has proved himself a true partner for peace. In a statement issued Saturday night, Peres said "Israel is a peace-seeking country and as such we must extend a brave hand in peace to a leader like Abu Mazen [Abbas]. ... Abbas rejected terror, he knows very well that the solution to the Palestinian refugee problem won't be found within Israel and won't compromise Israel's character."

Netanyahu rejected the Palestinian leader's words, but said his offer to meet Abbas still stands, a statement released by Netanyahu's office said.

"Abu Mazen (Abbas) refuses for four years now to renew the negotiations with Israel, and this despite a whole series of steps that Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken to allow for the resumption of talks, including the unprecedented settlement freeze [of housing starts for 10 months that ended in September 2010] in Judea and Samaria," the statement said.

Hamas also criticized Abbas. Ismail Hanniyeh, Hamas prime minister in Gaza called Abbas's statements "extremely dangerous." "No Palestinian would accept ceding the right of our people to return to homes, villages and towns from which they were displaced," he said in a statement to Arab media outlets, broadcast on Israeli television channels.

"No Palestinian would accept ceding the rights of our people to return to homes, villages and towns from which they were displaced. If Abu Mazen (Abbas) does not want Safed, Safed would be honored not to host people like him," Ma'an news agency quoted Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri saying.

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