Abbas won't be pressured into talks with Israel

Palestinians won’t be pressured into resuming peace talks with Israel as long as construction in Jewish settlements continues, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said today.

President Abbas said a complete construction freeze is a prerequisite for resuming talks.

Israel’s new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, supports settlement construction and has not committed to the idea of Palestinian statehood.

In his speech today, Mr Abbas said he would not give in to possible Israeli or international pressure on the Palestinians to resume negotiations even if settlement construction continues.

“For sure, we won’t submit to pressures. For example, if they say ’come and then we’ll see, come.’ No, we won’t accept. Regarding the peace talks, this is our position, even if someone, if anyone in the world, says ’you’re wrong,”’ he said.

President Abbas also rejected previous Israeli demands that Palestinians not only recognise the state of Israel – as Abbas and others have – but recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

He said it’s not his job to define the state of Israel.

“Name yourself, it’s not my business,” he said. “All I know is that there is the state of Israel, in the borders of 1967, not one centimetre more, not one centimetre less. Anything else, I don’t accept.”

In 1967, Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem – territories the Palestinians seek for their state. In previous talks, Israel has said it would like to keep some West Bank land.

Also today, Israeli activists said that a housing complex for Jews is under construction in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Zawahra in east Jerusalem.

The complex will eventually have at least 62 apartments in three buildings, each up to eight stories tall, said Daniel Seidemann, head of Ir Amim, a group campaigning for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence in the city.

Jerusalem municipal officials declined comment.

The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as their future capital, and the fate of the city is a key issue in any peace deal. Palestinians make up about one-third of Jerusalem’s population of more than 750,000.

Israel has systematically settled Israelis in east Jerusalem since the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians complain that Israeli housing policies are generally discriminatory, making it difficult for them to obtain building permits.

Mr Netanyahu says he opposes any division of the city.

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