Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Abbas playing it the Good guy in WSJ: No intifada on my watch

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not allow a new intifada to begin while he was in office, but warned that the calm currently felt in the West Bank may disappear at the end of his term, in June of 2010.

"As long as I am in office, I will not allow anyone to start a new intifada, but once I leave it is no longer my responsibility and I can't make any guarantees," Abbas told the Wall Street Journal Tuesday.

Mr. Abbas rebutted charges by Israel that he was responsible for holding up peace talks, saying he twice presented privately a compromise on settlements to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Mr. Abbas said Mr. Barak ignored the offer. Mr. Barak's office didn't respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Abbas said he would resume direct talks if Israel implemented a full but "undeclared" building freeze for five months. In his offer -- disclosed in an interview last week with Israel's Haaretz newspaper -- Israel could do so without any controversial declaration, giving its leadership political cover, he said.

A senior official in Mr. Netanyahu's office called the offer "unrealistic," a "total nonstarter."

Israeli security officials have praised Palestinian security services in recent months, but maintain that Israel's military operations in the West Bank are equally critical to the decrease in violence.

While raising the specter of violence, Mr. Abbas pressed for the U.S. and the broader international community to act more aggressively to bring Israel back to the negotiating table. Mr. Abbas voiced frustration with the White House and called on President Barack Obama to apply more pressure on Israel to freeze settlements. He said Mr. Obama should get the peace process back on track by presenting a U.S.-drafted peace proposal to both parties.

"Now the ball is in the international community's court and in America's court," Mr. Abbas said. "They have to come and say this is the end game and pressure the Israeli government." A spokesman for the White House urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct negotiations as the way to achieve both sides' goals.