Palestinian president offers Israel olive-branch

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he is willing to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to renew peace talks

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas makes closing remarks at the end of the 5th Extraordinary Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit on Palestinian issues in Jakarta, Indonesia March 7, 2016.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday that he is willing to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "at any time" as he called for the renewal of peace talks to end almost a year of heightened tensions marked by a spike in violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

Speaking in an interview with Israeli Channel 2 TV's "Uvda" programme, Abbas said if peace talks resume, it would give his people "hope," blaming the recent wave of stabbing attacks on a "lack of trust" in Netanyahu's commitment to a two-state solution to the conflict.

"I want to see peace in my life," Abbas said.

Israel walked out of the US-mediated peace talks in April 2014 when Palestinian political factions Fatah and Hamas, based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip respectively, declared a unity government in response to continued illegal settlement building by Israel in occupied areas.

Months later, an Israeli onslaught on Gaza killed around 2,200 Palestinians, at least 66 percent of whom were civilians. Meanwhile, 72 Israelis, mainly soldiers, also died.

Netanyahu’s pre-election rhetoric ahead of last year’s polls in a last-ditch attempt to garner right-wing votes also cast doubt on his commitment to the peace process.

Frustration over a lack of progress towards a solution sparked numerous stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks that have since September killed 28 Israelis and two Americans.

Over the same time, at least 188 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire. Israel says most were attempting attacks, whereas Palestinians claim many were innocent.

Palestinian-Israeli cooperation

Abbas also said the security cooperation between the Israeli military and Palestinian security forces continues and that if it were not for his forces, the violence would be much bloodier now.

"Our security forces go into the schools to search pupils' bags and see if they have knives. You don't know this," he said.

"In one school, we found 70 boys and girls who were carrying knives. We took the knives and spoke to them and said: 'This is a mistake. We do not want you to kill and be killed. We want you to live, and for the other side to live as well.' "

Earlier Thursday, the Israeli military demolished the home of Ehab Maswada, a Palestinian man who fatally stabbed a Jewish settler in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Hebron late last year and was in turn killed.

Israel says home demolitions are an effective tool to deter attacks, but critics say the tactic amounts to collective punishment.

The West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip came under Israeli occupation following the Six-Day war in 1967.

Israeli forces left Gaza in 2005, but it came under an Israeli-enforced blockade in 2007 after Hamas, which is considered by Israel to be a terrorist organisation, came to power in the coastal enclave.

Palestinians want all three territories as part of their proposal for a united state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem serving as its capital. However, Israel wants to keep up its annexation of East Jerusalem while seeking international recognition for an undivided Jerusalem as its own capital.

TRTWorld and agencies