Abbas calls Netanyahu peace partner, but sets conditions

Tuesday, May 01, 2012 |  Ryan Jones

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas appeared to have a change of heart on Monday when he declared during a speech in Tunisia that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a viable peace partner.

Over the past year, Abbas and his top government officials have tried to paint Netanyahu as the main obstacle to peace, even as they refused the Israeli leader's numerous calls to return to negotiations.

Addressing the Tunisian parliament on Monday, and sounding a bit like a character out of the children's series Pokemon, Abbas stated, "I choose you, Netanyahu." [The speech was delivered in Arabic, so it only sounded cartoonish when translated to English.]

To ensure no one thought he had started to actually like or admire his Israeli counterpart, Abbas added, "You are the prime minister of Israel, and I am forced to work with you."

But Abbas' apparent sudden reversal came with some strings attached. Abbas insisted that for talks to resume, Netanyahu must abandon the idea that Jews can live in their biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, as well as in the eastern half of Jerusalem.

"You [Netanyahu] must also choose between settlements and peace, for those who want peace do not think of settlements," said Abbas.

Should Israel continue to refuse to meet 100 percent of Palestinian demands, Abbas threatened that he may return to the United Nations and continue his bid to unilaterally win recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

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