I interviewed Nabil Abu Rudeina, Mahmoud Abbas’ official spokesman on Wednesday in Washington. When I pressed him on the fact that negotiations with Israel don’t show any sign of succeeding, he invoked the one state solution. Abbas mentioned it again when he spoke at the Brookings Institution on Thursday.
Washington – The failure of peace talks could result in a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday.
“That’s what we are warning the Israelis and the Americans, that there is a golden opportunity right now, that peace can be achieved, otherwise there are a lot of scenarios, [such as] a one state solution, like South Africa,” Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said in an interview.
“Maybe one day this leadership will vanish,” he added. “Nobody knows what the coming generations will decide to do.”
“Who knows what the next generation will look like,” he said, “they might make Al-Qaeda look moderate.”
Abu Rudeina accompanied Abbas to Washington for his meeting with President Barack Obama, which focused on Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip, and on indirect Palestinian-Israeli talks toward a two-state peace deal.
Indirect negotiations, or proximity talks, between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began in May after more than a year of Obama administration efforts to bring the two sides together.
In the previous round of peace talks, Abbas negotiated directly with Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for over a year without reaching an agreement. Talks were broken off in December 2008 when Israel launched a war in the Gaza Strip that left some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
Abu Rudeina confirmed that during Wednesday’s meeting at the White House Abbas came under pressure from the Obama administration to move on to direct negotiations.
Abbas had previously demanded a total halt to Israeli West Bank settlement construction as a precondition for direct talks. Abu Rudeina said that instead of a settlement freeze, the principle precondition needed for such talks is “progress” on the two issues at the top of the negotiating docket: borders and security.
He did not specify what would constitute progress. He added that the Arab League will review the status of the talks in September, at which time a decision will be made whether to move forward.
Abbas’ meeting with Obama comes at a moment of renewed attention on the Gaza Strip following Israel’s deadly raid on a convoy of aid ships attempting to break Israel’s blockade of the territory.
Abbas’ Palestinian Authority does not control Gaza. After Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006, it formed a unity government with Abbas’ Fatah movement. In 2007 Hamas violently took full control of Gaza, fearing a US-backed coup. Following the takeover, Abbas dissolved the unity government, leaving the West Bank and Gaza administratively and politically split.
It was also following the Hamas takeover that Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza’s borders and coastline, triggering an ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Abu Rudeina brushed off concerns about whether Gaza would be included in a potential peace deal with Israel, saying that the talks are still Abbas’ responsibility as PLO chairman. He also said that any peace deal would be put up for a referendum that would include Gaza.
Abu Rudeina also confirmed that Abbas met last week with a former minister in the 2006 Hamas-led government in a renewed effort to reach a power-sharing deal.
He said that Abbas met in Amman, Jordan with Jamal Al-Koudary, a well-regarded Gazan political independent who was a member of the Hamas administration led by Ismail Haniyeh.
During the meeting, the spokesman said, “We offered them [Hamas] a formula. If they accept it, everything will go in the right direction. It’s based on the Egyptian paper.”
Abu Rudeina was referring to an Egyptian unity plan that Abbas accepted in 2009, but Hamas balked at the document, saying it wanted revisions to the document.
He said that Israel’s deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid convoy last week had created a new climate conducive to reconciliation. “It’s a golden opportunity right now. The issue of the flotilla created a new atmosphere that they [Hamas] should take advantage of.”
But, he said he doubted Hamas would accept the offer. “They have to consult with Iran with Syria with the Muslim brotherhoods. I don’t think they are ready or willing to take any further step for the time being,”
Hamas has reportedly said it wasn’t consulted before Khoudary left Gaza for the meeting with Abbas.
Al-Khoudary was to bring Abbas’ offer to the Hamas leadership in Damascus and then consult with leaders in Gaza, where he was scheduled to return today, Abu Rudeina said.
“If they sign it [Abbas’ new offer] in Cairo, all their remarks will be taken into consideration during our mutual meetings while implementing the agreement,” Abu Rudeina said.
Abu Rudeina also rejected the notion that the US had a role in vetoing proposals for Palestinian unity.
“This has nothing to do with this issue,” he said. “When we signed the Egyptian paper, the Americans told us if we sign this paper Congress will boycott the Authority and will stop their aid to us. [Abbas] said to them ‘we will sign it. We cannot accept this kind of thinking.”
He also said that Abbas signed onto the 2007 Mecca Agreement that established the unity government over US objections.
Above: President Barack Obama and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority talk following their statement to the press in the Oval Office, June 9, 2010. [Photo: Pete Souza, courtesy White House]