Abbas discusses peace talks with Israeli students

Jerusalem, Feb 17: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Sunday with 200 Israeli students in Ramallah and talked with them about the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The meeting was organised by One Voice, an Israeli non-governmental organisation advocating Israeli-Palestinian peace, as well as by a lobby in the Israeli Knesset (parliament) calling for a two-state solution, Xinhua reported.

According to a statement issued by the spokesperson of the NGO, Abbas talked about several core issues and the conflicts in the ongoing peace talks, which commenced in July.

Regarding the peace process, Abbas pointed fingers at the Israeli government’s settlements policy.

“How do you wish to make peace when you continue to build in the settlements, on lands that are supposed to be part of the Palestinian state?” Abbas criticised Israel’s government, according to the statement.

The Palestinian president also talked about the initial date set forth by the US to end this round of talks in April, and said that “Israel has to make a decision”. Abbas also slammed the Israeli demand to have the Palestinian government acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state.

“We’ve already acknowledged Israel,” Abbas said. “The purpose of this demand is to hurt the peace process. Every time we settle on something, the other side wants more,” he added.

He tackled several other issues including the status of Jerusalem, the borders issue of the future Palestinian state, water distribution in the West Bank territories and the Israeli prime minister and several ministers’ charges of incitement by the Palestinian government against Israel.

While admitting there is incitement in the Palestinian society, Abbas said that there is also incitement in Israel, and said the Palestinians offered to establish a joint committee with Israel to battle it but Israel declined the offer.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians resumed in July after a three-year halt amid Israel’s ongoing construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem settlements on lands occupied in the 1967 Mideast War.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is currently working to bring forth a framework agreement to outline the next steps in diplomatic contacts between Israel and the Palestinian in the upcoming year, which will outline the discussion over core issues in the near future.