It’s led many to question whether Palestine can now take Israelicrimes against Palestinians to international courts.In an exclusive interview with RT, Abbas said that while Israelhas considered Palestine disputed territories for many years, TelAviv will no longer be able to argue who the land belongs to.And while Israel continues its illegal settlement activity onoccupied territories, Abbas says he is focused on coming to asolution with Tel Aviv through peaceful means – because fightingwill only lead to Palestine’s destruction.He added that all Arabs and Muslims are ready to have peace withIsrael, and said that Palestine must make sure that Israel and itssupporters do not have reason to continue with the currentsituation.Abbas spoke to RT Arabic correspondent Salam Musafir during anofficial visit to Moscow. While in Russia, the leader received astate friendship medal from President Vladimir Putin.RT: Do you think this medal symbolizes Russia’scontinued support of the Palestinian people?MA: Definitely. This medal symbolizes Russia’s solidaritywith Palestine, a long-standing warm friendship between the Russianand the Palestinian people, which started back in Soviet times. Weshare a similar stance on a number of issues, including those onthe UN agenda. The medal is a big honor for all of us.RT: Starting today, all official UN documents will usea new legal name for Palestine – it will now be the “State ofPalestine” instead of the Palestinian National Authority. Manywonder if this could allow Palestine to take the cases of Israel’scrimes against the Palestinians to international courts for thefirst time ever. What can you say about this?MA: One of our major achievements is the fact that nowour territories are officially called an occupied state. For manyyears now Israel, supported by many Western countries, hasconsidered Palestine disputed territories. And if the territoriesare disputed, they could argue about who this land belongs to andto what extent.Now Israel cannot do this anymore. And we now have the right tobecome full, permanent members in any international organization.Of course, we are a little behind with this work, but hopefully theongoing negotiations will result in establishing a sovereignPalestinian state and finding a political settlement. Over the past4-5 years, Israel has been very stubborn, so we think this decisionshould be made at the UN. We are still waiting. We hope that thesetalks will be successful, but then we’ll be able to appeal tointernational organizations at any point. If these negotiationsfail to yield any results, the Palestinian people will have theright to act as they see fit.‘Israeli settlements key for peace negotiations’RT: In defiance of international criticism, Israelcontinues with its illegal settlement activity on occupiedterritories. Many members of the new Israeli cabinet known fortheir radical views reside in such territories. How can there beany hope for successful talks in such conditions?MA: They all think that it is their legal right toexpropriate our land, no matter what their actual politicalplatforms are. Even those members of the Israeli government whodon’t live on expropriated territories think that it’s still theirlegitimate right. We are very much concerned about this kind ofperception.It doesn’t matter if the current government stays or goes – theproblem of land annexation still remains. According to allinternational documents, all UN documents, twelve Security Councilresolutions, land expropriation and settlement activity are illegaland must be stopped – it has been this way since the 1970s.The UN Human Rights Council clearly stated that this policy isillegal and demanded a withdrawal of all settlers. If the currentIsraeli government continues with this rhetoric, there won’t be anynegotiations.RT: Does that mean that Palestinians have no otherchoice but to start another intifada?MA: My opinion is that today there’s no need forPalestinians to go back to fighting. The balance of forces is notin our favor, so it will only lead to the country’s destruction.Just look at the Second Intifada and its repercussions. Our peoplecan achieve their goals through peaceful means, like it happened atthe UN. But it’s not easy.The changing role of HamasRT: Today, the other part of the Palestinianresistance, Hamas, is increasingly leaning towards a politicalsolution of the problem rather than a military one. Have younoticed the shift?MA: Yes, we have. Moreover, that’s something we haveagreed on. A number of Hamas members support this stance. That’swhat we agreed on during our meeting in Cairo, and several monthsago at the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation wereaffirmed that the Palestinian people have the right tonon-violent resistance. We are going back to the negotiatingprocess. There is no disagreement on this between us and Hamasleaders, though some keep saying that they don’t consider apeaceful solution the only option and don’t rule out militarystruggle. But all this talk stopped at the Cairo meeting, which wassponsored by the US and Egypt. Now this is Hamas’s official stance.Pay no attention to the odd Hamas members that saydifferent. RT: Can these odd dissident voices affect thereconciliation process? MA: No. This is an entirely different topic. We agreed onall the political aspects of the reconciliation. The main thing –and we have agreed on this – will be to set up an interimgovernment with me as its head. So here’s the compromise: afterFayyad’s government stands down, which is what Hamas wanted, I willbecome the head of the new government, which Hamas has noobjections to. They were the ones that insisted I lead theindependent interim technocratic government. The next step will beto hold a general election. These are the two main steps of thereconciliation process, and they are being carried outsimultaneously. That’s what we agreed on, but I do not know whatprevents us from launching the process. That’s all I have to say onthis issue. Expectations from Obama’s visitRT: Speaking of the US pressure, President Obama isgoing to visit Israel soon, and on his way, perhaps he’ll pay abrief visit to Palestine as well?MA: Actually, this will be an official visit toPalestine. He’ll go to Ramallah, where we’ll hold talks. The onlything we don’t know yet is the duration of his stay. We havealready planned all the official ceremonies: we’ll greet him at theairport, hold talks, and see him off. That will be a full-fledgedofficial visit – just like the one he will pay to Israel andJordan.RT: Who will Obama appeal to – Israelis, orPalestinians, or both?MA: I hope he will appeal to those who break the law. Inhis statements, President Obama has repeatedly voiced hisopposition to illegal land expropriation, and we think he’s right.Now all that remains is to translate words into action. I havealways asked Americans and Europeans to tell me if there has been asingle miscalculation on my part in domestic or foreign policiesover eight years – while Israel makes mistakes every day. So whydon’t you let them know?RT: Do you think that Hamas is also under pressurefrom its ideological allies, the Muslim Brotherhood-backedgovernment in Egypt, a key force in the region?MA: Egypt has definitely helped to facilitate the Cairoreconciliation deal, and pledged it would take up responsibility incase it was breached. Until now, Hamas has breached none of theconditions. If someone else smuggles weapons inside the Gaza Stripand Israel targets them, Hamas has nothing to do with it. As Isaid, Egypt sponsored these agreements and Hamas has been followingthem. When these questions were discussed in Cairo, Khaled Meshaalsigned up to everything. In fact, Egypt didn’t ask for selectivecompliance; instead, it wanted the parties to abide by theobligations in full. Now that Meshaal has signed up to theseagreements, he should stick to them – and this has nothing to dowith pressure.RT: What do you think of Egypt’s role today as opposedto the past?MA: Egypt is playing the same role as before. What I meanis that it has always stood for the Palestinian resistance. Givenits geographic location, its history, its international influence,there is no way for Egypt to stop supporting Palestine – it hasbeen on our side throughout its history. It has a strategicinterest in resolving the Palestinian issue. It has always been atop priority for Egyptians – regardless of who is in power: Mubarakor Sadat or the incumbent leadership. It’s as crucial to our causeas Mount Horeb is to the Muslims.RT: The EU is said to be considering a move to takeHamas off the list of terrorist organizations. Do you think thatthis may be an attempt to legitimize the Hamas-ledgovernment?MA: I don’t think so. After the recent developments, thechances are quite high that the Hamas government may be recognizedas legitimate. If Hamas is committed to the ceasefire and if itopenly pledges to stick to the peaceful popular resistance, I don’tsee much difference between their policy and ours. In this case,there is no need to label them as a terrorist organization.RT: But you didn’t target Israel withrockets….MA: Neither we nor Hamas did. Not any longer. After theSecond Intifada, we decided to give up on armed resistance. And letme be totally frank with you: we don’t want to launch any armedresistance whatsoever. Hamas has said the same. Yes, there wereclashes in the past, but they have stopped – and I’m grateful toAllah for that.Palestine expects the Arab League will keep its promisesRT: What are your expectations of the upcoming ArabLeague summit in Doha?MA: There’s only one expectation: I hope the Arabcountries will fulfill the obligations they took at the Baghdadsummit last year, where they pledged to send 100 million dollars tothe Palestinian Authority for security purposes on a monthly basis.Ever since, we have met with foreign ministers, with chairmen ofthe Arab League committees, as well as the Organization of IslamicCooperation, next we will talk to the Arab League members at theDoha summit. We are going to tell them, we would greatly appreciateif you kept your promises.RT: Do I get it right that you never received anyassistance?MA: Correct.RT: What’s your explanation, then?MA: I don’t know how to comment on this. I’m not going totalk much about this, but we never received a single dollar. TheArab League Secretary General put so much effort into this, but itwas all in vain.RT: Recently a delegation of four Foreign Ministers ofArab countries, led by the Secretary General of Arab League,visited Moscow. During the meeting the Arab Ministers told RussianForeign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Russia should dissociate fromthe Middle East quartet of international mediators. The Arabsconsider it incompetent. Would you agree with that?MA: No. We think that the quartet has to assume a moreactive stance, perhaps even include new members. If the quartetceases to exist, though, what’s going to replace it? During ArabLeague summits, a lot of Arab countries proposed to exclude theArab Peace Initiative from the existing legal framework for a peacesettlement. We were against it, because we don’t see anyalternative. Just think about it. There are three possibilities:war; no war, no peace; and peace. Do the Arabs want to go to war?No. If there is no war, but no peace, it will only bring moremisery. The Arab Peace Initiative introduces opportunities tosecure peace. So why not use it in the talks with Israel? I thinksuch things about the Arab Peace Initiative are said on the spur ofthe moment. As I said, the only alternative to the Initiative iswar. But I am convinced that no one wants that. The time for warsis over. If the war starts, God only knows what kind oframifications it will have. That’s why we advocate peace, and onlypeace.How can we secure peace? We now have a viable initiative, forthe first time since 1948. Israel hasn’t responded to it yet, andthe Arabs didn’t bother to promote it, hammer it home to theIsraelis and the Americans. No Arab state took the trouble to tellthe world, “Here’s the Arab Peace Initiative, please read it – it’sonly one page long”. Then many people could have realized that yes,it is, in fact, a peace initiative. We tried to circulate it viathe mass media in different countries, including Russia, the EU,the US, China, and Israel. But our resources are limited. Wemanaged to publish the text of the Initiative only once. But if theArabs had been serious, they would have made sure that mass mediaall over the world buzzed about the Arab Peace Initiative. The ideais simple: if Israel refused to adopt the Initiative, it would becrystal clear who is obstructing the peace process in the MiddleEast. The international community could have cornered Israel.RT: Yes, maybe that’s why Foreign Minister SergeyLavrov said at that meeting with the Arab foreign ministers thatArab countries do not put enough pressure on their Western andAmerican friends to advance existing initiatives?MA: We don’t want any pressure. Nobody can put pressureon anyone at the moment – neither Arabs nor other stakeholders.Even the Americans could not put pressure on anyone. There’s muchdifference between pressure and noble intentions. You should try toconvince others through friendly talks and constructivediscussions. Pressure is very unlikely to yield positive results. Iwill give you a simple example. During the UN vote on the status ofPalestine, we got the support of 138 states, including 20 Europeancountries. We also consider those 41 states that abstained from thevote our supporters. Israel only had 9 countries on its side. Soeven though we don’t have weapons, don’t have oil or otherresources, we can achieve something. We were able to convince theworld that the truth is on our side. And that’s why countries votedfor us. Why aren’t our Arab brothers doing anything to help uscapitalize on this broad international support?RT: The Arab brothers are saying that Israel is beingstubborn, and they can’t do anything about it.MA: That’s true, the Israelis are very stubborn. But youcan challenge them over it. And there’s only one way to do it – touse the Arab peace initiative for that. The whole world is urgingIsrael to withdraw from the occupied Arab territories, right?All Arabs and all Muslims are ready to have peace with Israel.Arabs are not going to attack Israel after it withdraws from theoccupied territories. We have to make sure that Israel and itssupporters do not have any reason to continue with the currentsituation. Right now Israel’s President and Prime Minister haveopposing approaches. The president says, “Yes, we have Palestinianpartners in the peace process, and it is possible to reach atwo-state solution.” But the Prime Minister is against thisapproach. So there are people who we could have a dialogue with, wecould try to convince them. But there are also those who force usto exhibit a different kind of behavior. We need to exposethem. It is not enough to keep telling the Israelis that they aredoing wrong by us, violating our rights. But so far our Arabbrothers just declared that Israel is not interested in the peaceprocess, therefore we, Arabs, are not going to do anything.‘Palestinian refugees in Syria should stay away fromconflict’RT: What are the challenges facing Palestinian refugees inSyria’s Yarmouk Camp? What do you do to have their needsaddressed?MA: We share the same attitude with the leaders of allPalestinian organizations regarding the recent uprisings in Arabcountries: Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria. We do notinterfere in those nations’ domestic affairs. When unrest eruptedin Tunisia, and then in Syria, all of us were strongly in favor ofnot getting involved. I met with all the leaders of Syria’sPalestinians, advising them to stay away from the Syrianinfighting, because that is a strictly domestic issue. That firstvisit of ours produced positive results: for about 18 months,Syria’s Palestinian camps remained absolutely safe. In line withthe well-known utterance of the Prophet, [“He who enters AbuSufyan’s home will be safe,”] Palestinian camps acquired a similarreputation: “He who enters a Palestinian camp will be safe.”But unfortunately, unrest and violence suddenly broke out inYarmouk Camp. A split emerged among the Palestinians, and with ittrouble. Some people resorted to arms, and others chose to moveelsewhere. About a month ago, I ordered another delegation to go toSyria. I told our Palestinian brothers that we must stay out of it,that we should not become a party in this conflict. And we’ll paymore visits to Syria if we need to, because we don’t wantPalestinians to get involved in all this carnage anddestruction.Palestinians who are fleeing Syria today will not find refuge inany other country. They came to Syria as refugees to start with,and now they are supposed to either stay in this country or gohome. This is a dangerous situation, and we hope that the crisiswill be resolved, or at least will wind down soon.RT: But those refugees cannot go back toPalestine?MA: That’s right, they can’t go home right now. Some didearlier, though. Between 1994 – the year the Palestinian Authoritywas established – and 2000, some 1.5 million Palestinians returnedto Palestine.RT: Is there anyone willing to go home at themoment?MA: No. Now, that would be a difficult thing to do.RT: Because of Israeli actions?MA: Exactly, because of Israeli actions. The Israelishave sealed the border crossings, even though we had previouslyagreed that they should remain open. In doing that, Israel broke anearlier arrangement with us for no legitimate reason, like it hasdone so many times in the past. We have been unable to persuadethem that they are making a mistake.We have an agreement on prisoner exchange with the Israelis, butthey won’t hand over Palestinian prisoners to us. They collecttaxes for us and retain a certain share of the money, but theyperpetually fail to transfer the rest of it to us on time.RT: Have you looked into the Russian medics’preliminary conclusion on the tests of Yasser Arafat’s recentlyexhumed remains?MA: I haven’t yet. Besides the Russian experts, the testsare being administered by Swiss and French medics – that makesthree groups of experts in total. The Swiss and the Frenchdelegations are still doing research and haven’t submitted theirverdicts yet. Our own medical, legal and political work groups arewaiting for those expert assessments. As soon as we have aconclusion, we’ll have it published.RT: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
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