Peres calls Abbas 'true' partner for peace, Netanyahu differs
Jerusalem: Israel's Nobel laureate President was at loggerheads with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the two leaders stood differed in their views over an interview given by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in which he shunned violence against Israel.
Peres praised his PA counterpart after his remarks during the interview to an Israeli TV channel assuring no outbreak of a third intifada during his tenure, Netanyahu, largely expected to return to power in January 22 snap polls, rejected it as hollow words that "do not match his actions".
Abbas, in an interview to Israel's Channel 2, said that as long as he remains in power, he will not allow a third intifada to break out.
He said that although he is a refugee from Safed (north Israel), he does not intend to return to the city as a resident. If anything, he would visit the place as a tourist.
"Palestine for me is the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital, this is Palestine, I am a refugee, I live in Ramallah, the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine, everything else is Israel," he said in the interview on Thursday.
Channel 2's political correspondent Udi Segal, who interviewed the Palestinian leader, separately tweeted quoting Abbas as saying: "We will not go back to terrorism and violence. We will only operate through diplomacy and through peaceful means."
Israel's President responded to Abbas' statements saying: "His brave words prove that Abu Mazen (nom de guerre for Abbas) is a real partner for peace."
"(Abbas) rejects terrorism and has pledged that under his
leadership, there will not be a third intifada," the elder statesman said.
"He understands that the solution to the refugee problem will not be on Israeli territory. These are statements of great importance," he added.
"Abbas' statements should be taken seriously. They are in line with the positions of most Israelis, who support the two-state solution. Israel is a peace-loving nation and as such we need to bravely extend our hand out in peace to a leader like Abbas, with whom Israel has a real hope for peace," he stressed.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, however, differed in his views.
"There is no connection between the Palestinian Authority chairman's statements and his actual actions," a statement from his office said adding that his invitation to meet with Abbas without preconditions is still open.
"Abbas has been refusing to renew the negotiations with Israel for over four years, despite a series of steps taken by Prime Minister Netanyahu, such as the unprecedented freeze on settlement construction," the statement emphasised.
"In addition, Abbas has refused to discuss security arrangements needed to protect Israeli citizens," it said.
There have been no direct peace talks between the two sides since 2010 when the Palestinians refused to resume negotiations unless Israel froze settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which they said was killing off all chances of them ever creating a coherent state.
Abbas has defied Israel and the US by planning to ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade the Palestinians to a non-member state.
The contradictory statements by the two Israeli leaders is likely to add further fuel to the rumour mill speculating Peres' return to active politics as the leader of the peace camp.