Ma'an News Agency (Interview)
September 1, 2010 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON (Ma'an) -- The PLO's decision to return to direct negotiations with Israel reflects its commitment to peace, not fear of pressure from the international community, President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday.

Speaking with Ma'an aboard the presidential jet en route to Washington, Abbas said the Obama administration appeared committed to resolving the Palestinian struggle for self-determination by implementing the two-state solution.

The president's remarks came hours before Palestinian operatives shot dead four settlers in the occupied West Bank late Tuesday, purportedly to send a message to the PLO that many Palestinians view negotiations with Israel as an exercise in futility. Militants aligned with Abbas' rivals claimed responsibility.

The president's plane will touch down late Tuesday in Washington, after which he plans to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Jordanian King Abdullah II before holding talks with US President Barack Obama.

What is your message to the settlers?

"The settlers live on land which isn't theirs. My message to them: 'This isn't your land, and you know it. Imposing a de facto solution isn't an option because it's illegal. The settlements will be removed."

Netanyahu seems ready to start building again.

"It's ridiculous that the Netanyahu government is willing to halt settlements when we aren't negotiating, yet appears ready to move forward on construction as soon as we've returned to direct talks."

Any response to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who is lately praying for your death?

"Yosef's words amount to incitement. But it's not the first time he's tossed insults and curses at Palestinians. So what? We're returning to negotiations so we can resolve final-status issues, not any of these side issues."

In Washington, the PLO's envoy to the United States was hesitantly optimistic.

"We should always seek peace," Ambassador Maen Areikat said adding that most Palestinians back talks despite opposition from Hamas and leftist factions like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

"It's difficult to predict if they will be successful or not. I'm realistic, not optimistic." Areikat told Ma'an late Monday by phone. "If there's even a glimmer of hope, we will pursue it. But we are not going to accept peace at any cost. There are certain principles that have to be met."

On Netanyahu's commitment, Areikat said the next two days would provide "an opportunity not only for Palestinians but also for the international community to judge whether he is sincere and genuine or not. We haven't seen anything to encourage us, but this is a chance to judge whether he means business."


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