We would like to welcome our honorable guests taking part in this session. A special welcome goes to MP Yihya al-Su’ud from Jordan and their Excellencies Arab and Foreign Ambassadors and Consuls. To them we say ‘You are welcome’. Let us pray for and honor the souls of our dead martyrs.
Thousands of Palestinian martyrs were killed in the Gaza Strip during the latest Israel military offensive on Gaza. Around 2200 innocent civilians perished and their memory will always remain alive in our minds. We pay tribute to Mohammad Abu Khdeir who was burnt and excecuted, and to George Hazboun, Mohammad Hazza’, the poet Samih Al-Qasim, Ziyad Abi Ein, Ghassan Matar, Said Khoury and other martyrs who fell dead for their homeland. May they all rest in peace.
This meeting was supposed to take place on March 8, which marks the International Women Day, but we were compelled to reschedule it for today. We salute Palestinian women and say to them ‘We wish you a happy and blessed women day’.
We signed several agreements and conventions on the political rights of women. This is something very important for us as we are striving to be in the vanguard in providing women, whom we deeply respect and consider the most active and efficient part of our society, with their basic political and social rights. We seek to have women employees and members in the ministries, the Palestinian National Council, the Palestinian Legislative Council, municipality councils, Shari’a Judiciary, education, health, security, the Police as well as the Presidential and national guards. Women are expected to be in all places and they are not incapable of performing the tasks at equal footing with men. We wish to see women having the post of a marriage registrar or clerk and head of state. We all remember that the only competitor of the late President Yasser Arafat in the 1996 elections was a woman. We seek to have women occupying senior and critical positions in the country.
We visited several countries including Saudi Arabia and offered our condolences on the death of King Abdullah ben Abdul Aziz. We have also congratulated King Salman ben Abdul Aziz and held talks with him. I can confidently say that the Saudi position toward the Palestinian cause has not changed and will always remain strong and unwavering. We also visited European countries including Sweden, which we thank for its recognition of the Palestinian state. Such recognition is important and means a lot to us. We ask world countries to follow in the steps of Sweden and recognize our state. However, such recognition does not mean that we are trying to evade negotiations. If world countries recognize us there will be many other issues to negotiate about.
Such recognition reflects the position of the countries that have by now started to see the urgency of achieving justice. There are, in fact, indicators in European countries that have recognized the Palestinian State such as Spain, Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg where parliaments are eagerly angling for recognizing the Palestinian State.
Speech of H.E President Mahmoud Abbas to the PLO Central Council Parliaments represent people and long ago these countries became aware of the drastic situation in Palestine. They have declared that settlements are illegal and affirmed that settlement products are illegitimate. Likewise countries bordering Palestine have realized the hazards to peace and two-state solution caused by settlements.
I say to those who ask where we will build the state that the answer has come out from Europe. We will spare no effort to ensure that European countries will recognize the Palestinian State so that the whole world will be under tremendous pressure to push forward the peace process.
I visited France to show solidarity with the French people and confirm that we are against terrorism and ISIS and all terrorist organizations that act in the name of Islam. We went to show solidarity and declared that no one has the right to vilify religious symbols. Freedom of expression does not entail contempt, derision or disrespect to others. Our religious symbols are sacred and must be venerated.
We condemn the acts of ISIS. We condemn the burning of the Jordanian pilot Muath Kasasbeh, and we condemn the slaughtering of 21 Egyptians. These acts cannot be accepted and they do not reflect or represent the true nature of Islam. These acts are acts of sabotage.
The world is earnestly requested to look into the Palestinian cause and find a solution to it. The world has to do something in word and deed for the Palestinian cause. We told world leaders about the solution and they know it is easy and simple. If Israel withdraws from the Palestinian territory it occupied in 1967 all the 57 Arab and Islamic countries will recognize Israel.
If Israel wants peace, it will work for it and if it recognizes our rights, we will live in peace together. The world has to shake Israel and wake up from its slumber.
Israel is kidnapping peace from the world and creating tension in it by its continuous occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories.
We visited Algeria and Tunisia and congratulated the Tunisian President on the fair and democratic elections that resulted in the victory of Mohammad al-Baji Qaid al-Sabsi.
Before visiting Tunisia we went to South Africa, and we still maintain constant and sustainable contacts with our brothers in Jordan and Egypt. These contacts take place on all levels and by all means because we are concerned that Egypt and Jordan remain at close relationship with us and head with us one step at a time toward the realization of a common goal.
As you know, there is in the Arab League the Arab Follow-Up Committee comprising 18 countries. Whenever we see a need to communicate with the committee, we call for a meeting and discuss critical issues. The committee members advise us and at the end of the meeting we unanimously come up with some decisions. In 2011 we addressed the UN to be accorded the status of a full-member state but we failed and in 2012 we went to the General Assembly and we succeeded. Later we acceded to and signed international agreements and conventions, and finally we went to the Security Council but failed to get the required number of votes. As a result, we were accused of reckless behavior.
In truth we have our own perspective with regard to going to the Security Council. We agreed to have a 6-member committee to decide on when to go the Security Council. We want this to be an Arab decision and in fact it was.
From the beginning we said that we are committed to negotiations. We went to Madrid Conference in spite of the terms and conditions imposed on us. Then we went to Washington and held talks in Oslo, Wye River, Camp David and other places. When we were accorded a status of a state by the UN, the US launched a new round of talks that went on for 9 months. During that time we agreed to have terms of reference for the negotiations, but at the same time we agreed with Netanyahu on a crucial matter namely the release of 103 or 102 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in four stages. Also we agreed on a complete halt of settlement activities at this stage.
The 9 months came to an end but not the settlement activities, and the fourth batch of prisoners was not released. Why? No answer. As a result, negotiations ceased and voices from the US accused Netanyahu of crippling the negotiations because he did not halt settlement activities and failed to release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners.
At this time Israel wants to put everything in hold because of the elections. It is unfortunate that Israel is doing this. But I say clearly and plainly that we have no business with the Israeli elections and we do not wish to express own view on whom we wish to be the next Prime Minister of Israel. Whomever the Israeli people will elect we will consider a peace partner and negotiate with.
We wish the Israeli government deals with us in the same manner as we deal with it. Israeli government officials have the inclination to say that we do not represent the Palestinian people or that we exercise political terror. No one has the right to interfere and decide on our own internal affairs. But no matter how impartial we are trying to be, one thing must be said: We will be very delighted if our Palestinians inside Israel unite. And Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are able to unite. We will be happy if they run the elections as one unified list of electors and defend their rights. We do not want from them anything more than this: to be one constituency that defends its rights raising the banner of peace. We want them to call for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, to call for equality and eliminate racism. Yes, there is racial discrimination exercised against Palestinians residing in Israel (and us in the West Bank) and they have the right to defend their rights and express their opinion. We ask them to call for peace on the basis of justice, equality, international legitimacy and two-state solution. The whole world and most Israelis believe the same. We will know the results of the elections in two weeks and whoever wins will have won the trust of his people. We say to Palestinians running the Israeli elections: God be with you. And this is not interference in Israeli affairs. We say to them as well: May God guide and protect you.
Israel is exercising a racial policy. In Jerusalem, the Israeli government aims to expel thousands of Palestinian residents by any means. It restricts them and prevents us and others from accessing to them. In this the government of Israel is assisted by fatwa issuers like Sheikh Qardawi who declared that it is unlawful to go to Jerusalem. Why? Where is it written that going to Jerusalem is unlawful? There is nothing about this, for example, in the Holy Quran. For those who say this is normalization of relations with Israel, I say to them you will be visiting prisoners and not wardens of the prison and your visits will strengthen the steadfastness of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the occupied territory. Visiting Jerusalem is by no means an act of support to Israel. This is a perverted view and we should turn to Jerusalem otherwise we will lose it forever. We do not want to have a Jerusalem that is made of stones only; we want Jerusalem to be a place housing holy places and believers; we want it to remain the eternal capital of Palestine.
The Israeli leave no opportunity to commit acts of sabotage in the holy city: burning mosques and churches. I say and God is my witness that King Abduallah of Jordan has in more than one occasion intervened to thwart acts of sabotage by Israelis in Jerusalem. In addition, there are roads in the West Bank which Palestinians are prohibited to use. What is the meaning of such practices? Are they practices that will result in real and just peace?
Recently, the Israeli army launched a massive offensive on the Gaza Strip. There are a few points that must be made clear with regard to the Israeli offensive. We have taken quick steps to stop the offensive. We contacted Egypt and it agreed to offer an initiative similar to that of 2012 agreement with some additions. The initiative was frequently rejected but on the 50th day of the offensive it was unconditionally accepted. The offensive resulted in 2,200 deaths and 10,000 injuries, and in the partial or wholly decimation of 80,000 civilian homes.
Norway called for a reconstruction of Gaza conference and we asked Norway to hold the conference in Egypt. The conference convened and countries pledged to contribute with USD 5 billion on condition that the national unity government can exercise its tasks on the borders and that the UN undertakes the delivery of construction material and other aggregates. We did not want anyone to accuse us of preventing entry of material into Gaza. We called for having the Police in the borders receiving material from the UN. Nevertheless, nothing has been accomplished and people are homeless until now. Who is to blame?
The land is been swallowed up gradually and we have no one to complain to. We went to the UN and there was a French initiative. We almost guaranteed 9 seats but at the very last moment one country rescinded. The next day we signed Rome Statute and the ICC Agreement and as a result pandemonium in Israeli broke loose. Israel withheld Palestinian tax revenues which it levies for 3% pursuant to Paris Economic Protocol. When we asked for the reason, the Israeli government told us it withheld the money because we went to the ICC. We asked them what they had to do with that and they suggested to us to forego our right and refrain from going to the ICC if we wanted our tax revenues.
Israelis, Americans and Jews have filed cases against us in the US, and we were impeached. This was not the first time though. How come Israelis have the right to file a case against me while I have no right to go to the ICC? There is another important aspect to the issue. Israel owes us ILS 1 billion and 800 million from tax and healthy insurance and it refused to transfer the money to us. This is other than clearance revenues. Are we here dealing with a state or a thug? How can such a thing happen?
We agreed on two main points and formed a national unity government. The other point has to do with the legislative and presidential elections. I won the 2005 elections. Now in 2015 was I given mandate for 10 more years? In 2006 Hamas won the elections, but was it given mandate for an addition 9 years? I challenge Hamas and say I am going to the elections and I will issue a decree if Hamas gives an official agreement to the Head of the Elections committee Hanna Nasser.
What about the Arab Spring? I am using this term and do not force anyone else to agree on it. The Arab Spring that has swept the Arab nation is the new Middle East which we are suffering from now. There is no state in Libya and Yemen. Iraq and Syria and depleted and I am not sure where they are heading. The Arab Spring turned into sectarian war, which is even more despicable and worse than any kind of wars. We are against division and sectarianism in the heterogeneous Arab society. I mentioned earlier what ISIS did to Kasasbeh and the 21 Egyptians, and perhaps more is awaiting us. This has nothing to do with Islam or humanity.
From the beginning I said we do not interfere in the internal affairs of Arab countries; however, Palestinian refugee camps in Arab countries were grievously affected. We as PLO do not interfere and we said clearly that the political solution is the best, even though some tried to make us directly involved. We talked with about heads of Arab states about Geneva 1 and 2 and Moscow Conference. We declared that what was happening was detrimental to the people, the land, history and geography. The best solution is peace because in peace all parties win.
Some time ago we proposed the slogan of popular resistance, but this was not enough. We have the right to raise our voices everywhere in the world so that world can hear what we seek to achieve: two states and East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine.
We will not accept a Jewish state or the Islamization of the Middle East. We are moderate Moslems and perform religious rites. We oppose the Jewishness of Israel and we oppose a state with temporary borders. You have heard this before. We are opposed to the project that says that Gaza is a state and the West Bank can be taken care of later. The project must be rejected by everyone. We have declared that agreement on this project is tantamount to the elimination of the Palestinian cause. We reject this project and we reject the Jewishness of the Israeli state.
As for our people in Lebanon, we provide them with the little support that we have. Fortunately, they have not taken sides. We are interested in neutrality because we are guests who do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
Now what happened? All agreements signed between us and the Israelis were totally violated. In 2001 the Israeli government violated Area A Agreement, which they were prohibited to enter. Today they go in and out of Area A unchecked with their tanks and soldiers and war crafts. We know they are militarily powerful but they do not have to remind us of this every now and then.
We will never surrender but we will not use violence. Peaceful popular resistance is the only way to express ourselves. War crafts and tanks are means beyond our reach.
We are present on our land and we will remain on it. We will remain in our homeland whatever happens. And we are ready to resume negotiations with Israel even though it has violated and invalidated all agreements signed since 1995. The Israeli government held our money, invaded our cities, killed our men and women and children, and showed disrespect to agreements and conventions.
We are ready for the negotiations if settlements activities cease and if Palestinians prisoners are released from Israeli jails. I am for holding an international conference, though I am skeptic about it, but we will comply with its outcomes.
We now request the Central Council, which is the highest authority. We are passing through a critical historical moment and revising the functions of the PA that no longer has authority. We are studying how to rebuild the PA that will have sovereignty and looking into ways to secure that compliance with signed conventions and agreements is not one sided.