Interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas pledged Saturday in his first official campaign speech to fulfill Palestinian dreams of statehood. He said he had chosen the path of peace and negotiations. “Israel must pull out of all Palestinian lands occupied in 1967,” Abbas said in Ramallah. “We cannot compromise on Jerusalem.”
Abbas said Saturday, “I will not use weapons against any Palestinian…. Israel calls them [the armed groups] murderers, but we call them strugglers.”
Abbas said the release of all Palestinian prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti – who is serving five life sentences for his role in a series of murders – was a condition for reaching peace with Israel.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom Monday said Israel could not ignore the “harsh statements” Palestinian leader Abbas made at a campaign kickoff at the weekend. “This speech does not bode well,” said Shalom, noting Israel could not write off Abbas’s remarks as mere campaign rhetoric. “You cannot speak of ‘continuing the struggle in all forms,’ or sell the illusion of the refugees,” Shalom said. “We will do everything that we can at this stage so that they can hold proper elections. However, we expect that the next day they will enter into real action against both incitement and terrorism. Otherwise, it will be more or less as it was under Arafat,” he said.