Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
April 23, 2008 - 11:00pm

Washington, DC, April 25 -- In a speech in Washington today, Yasser Abd Rabbo, a PLO Executive Committee Member and Policy Adviser to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, reiterated the Palestinian commitment to peace with Israel and praised Bush Administration efforts to reach an agreement. He repeatedly cautioned Israel against seeking “the partition of the West Bank,” which he said Palestinians “will never accept.”

Abd Rabbo spoke on April 25 at a briefing in Washington hosted by the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) and the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute, entitled “Is Peace Possible in 2008? A Palestinian Perspective.”

Abd Rabbo told the audience at the Falk Auditorium that it is “Difficult to judge whether we are heading towards compromise or disaster, at least political disaster. I don’t know and I cannot predict the answer to this question that haunts me and others every day.” He said that when he “compares what is being said at meetings and what is going on on the ground, one feels schizophrenia.” This is because, “What is being said is that we need an agreement this year. This American Administration is doing its best to achieve that. The Israelis officially repeat the same thing. We are warning everybody that if this opportunity is missed, other forces will benefit, not only Israeli and Palestinian extremists, but extremists in the whole region.”

“But,” he added, “what is going on on the ground is completely contrary to this aim. Settlements are accelerating in and around Jerusalem, and in the whole of the West Bank. People ask us, what are you talking about: settlements go up, there are more than 500 checkpoints, here is the wall, and life is not changing.” Abd Rabbo said that, “The only thing that will help us win public opinion to our side is not diplomatic statements but some change in the daily life for Palestinians.” But, he said, “We can see that things are as they were before: for the Israeli government, it is business as usual.”

Abd Rabbo said he was concerned that Israel might seek to use settlement activity to impose a partition of the West Bank on the Palestinians. He said that, “the repeated declarations that we are going to have a contiguous, viable state are undermined by any intention to partition the West Bank. The agreement has to be a partition of historical Palestine based on [UN Security Council Resolutions] 242 and 338, but this expansion shows that Israel instead seeks the partition of the West Bank.” Abd Rabbo expressed concern that Israel was seeking to control Jerusalem, settlement blocks and even the Jordan Valley. He said that Israeli officials tell Palestinians that they want “border changes based on demographic, geographic and security issues, a hint that they want the Jordan Valley.” He said that this could leave Palestinians with a state resembling “a slice of swiss cheese.”

Abd Rabbo insisted that “Palestinian moderates cannot agree to this. This will build a regime in which Palestinians will be enslaved forever and we cannot accept it.” He later added that, “We cannot accept any solution at any price. If the aim is to reach a compromise and settlement based on the borders of 1967, plus or minus a little, then this is something we can do. But if the idea is the partition of the West Bank, that is another thing. We would never solve the issue on that basis.”

Abd Rabbo emphasized that a settlement freeze was vital to immediate progress on peace negotiations. “If we want a new beginning,” he said, “then put the settlements aside as a priority, and let us build on that. Then we can negotiate. We might negotiate the basic elements of an agreement and this, along with a settlement freeze, would be a bridge between this administration and the next for progress.” He praised efforts by the Bush Administration as going beyond mere rhetoric, saying that, “We are not deceived by words, but I do feel there is an encouraging attitude. We have seen this in the past only once or twice before. We have to build on that, and that is what we intend to do.”

He ended his comments by cautioning that time is limited, since “If we do not solve this on the basis of the two-state solution, then we will find no other solution in the foreseeable future.” Abd Rabbo pledged that “We have all missed opportunities in the past, but if this opportunity will be missed, it will not be our mistake. Our choice is quite clear: a state for us along the lines of 1967, that’s it.”






TAGS:


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017