Gaza: The prime minister of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip criticized the Palestinian president on Friday for comments given to Israeli media, alleging that they contradict long-time Palestinian territorial demands.
Esmail Haniya said on Friday that Mahmoud Abbas’ remarks, aired on Israel’s Channel 2, were “extremely dangerous”.
Abbas, who was speaking about borders of a future Palestinian state, said the West Bank, Gaza and occupied east Jerusalem are Palestine — and the rest is Israel.
He said that while he would like to see his birthplace — Safed, now a town in northern Israel — he doesn’t want to live there.
“I am a refugee but I am living in Ramallah. I believe that the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine. And the other parts is Israel,” Abbas said. “I want to see Safed. It is my right to see it but not to live there,” he said.
Palestinian officials did not return calls seeking comment. But Abbas’s remarks broadly reflect the official Palestinian position of reaching an agreement where refugees will receive compensation while a smaller amount would be allowed back.
Gaza’s Hamas movement, alongside many other Palestinians, said Abbas’ remarks suggested millions of refugees and their descendants would not return to the places they fled in wars with Israel.
“It is not possible for any person, regardless of who he is ... to give up a hand’s width of this Palestinian land, or to give up the right of return to our homes from which we were forced out,” Gaza’s Hamas ruler Esmail Haniya said.
The fate of refugees who fled, or were forced to flee their homes in the wake of Israel’s creation in 1948 is on one of the most emotional issues at the heart of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The refugee issue has been a big obstacle in peace talks. Israel says their entry would be demographic suicide and expects refugees to be taken in by a future Palestinian state. Israel has absorbed large amounts of Jewish refugees over the decades including those that fled from Arab countries in 1948 and 1967.
Nimer Hammad, an adviser to the Palestinian president, said Abbas was being “realistic”.
“He knows he can’t bring back five-and-a-half million Palestinian refugees to Israel,” Hammad said.
During his interview, Abbas vowed to prevent another violent Palestinian uprising, or intifada, like that of the last decade.
“We don’t want to use terror...we want to use diplomacy, we want to use politics, we want to use negotiations, we want to use peaceful resistance,” he said.
The comment came as Abbas prepares for a trip to the United Nations later this month, where he will seek an upgraded observer status for the Palestinians at the UN. Palestinians believe the vote to be held over the issue will add pressure Israel to withdraw from its current positions to lines it held before the 1967 war. Israel says negotiations alone should set a course for Palestinian statehood.