Abbas raised many eyebrows in Israel when he rejected the charge that the Palestinian Authority incites terror and claimed he wants to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas strongly rejected the charge that he incites terror, speaking in a rare interview with Israel’s Channel 2 television Thursday. “Our security forces go into schools and search their bags to see if they have knives. You don’t know about that,” he told journalist Ilana Dayan. “In one school, we found 70 students with knives in their bags. We tell them, ‘We don’t want you to die. We want you to live and that other people should live.’”
An increasing number of Palestinian children and teens have been attacking Jewish civilians and IDF soldiers, mostly by stabbing, during the current upsurge in violence that began in the early fall. The 16-year-old who recently murdered Dafna Meir, a mother of six, for example, admitted that he was incited by Palestinian TV programs.
When Dayan pressed Abbas about the glorification of terrorists as officially recognized “martyrs,” Abbas dismissed the notion that such praise contributes to terrorism.
“When he dies, he becomes a shahid, but that’s another matter,” Abbas said, using the common Arabic word for ‘martyr.’ “We don’t want him to be a shahid; we want him to live.” Rather, Abbas insisted, a Palestinian child engages in terrorism not because he seeks the glory of martyrdom, but “because he has no hope.”
Confronted by Dayan with evidence of Palestinian incitement to the murder of Jews, Abbas conceded that it exists, “I admit it, but you have it, too,” he dared to reply, although one would be hard-pressed to find Israeli schoolchildren carrying knives with the intention to stab a Palestinian.
Abbas spoke at length about the security cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli security forces, for which he is sharply criticized by Hamas and other Palestinian hardliners.
“I want to cooperate with Israel, we have a deal, and I’m not ashamed of it,” Abbas said, touting the benefits of the arrangement. “If not for the security cooperation, there would be a bloody intifada.”
However, Abbas challenged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to entrust the Palestinian Authority with full responsibility for preventing terror attacks.
“Try me for a week,” he dared Netanyahu. “Give me the responsibility for the Palestinian territories and try me. If we don’t succeed, then come, Mr. Netanyahu, you rule here. I’ll salute you.”
Abbas claimed a desire for a comprehensive peace deal with Israel. “I want to see peace in my life. Why can’t we have peace now?” he asked, adding that he would be willing to meet Netanyahu at any moment.
“I suggested to him to meet, by the way,” Abbas said, before stopping himself mid-sentence. “No, no, it’s a secret. He’ll tell you,” he chuckled, going silent at Dayan’s requests that he elaborate.
Despite six months of near-daily Palestinian terror attacks, Abbas insisted that “we haven’t lost our humanity, not us and not the Israelis. We must say that what’s happening now is irregular, unnatural, against human nature. If we accept the current situation, we won’t have a future.”
Abbas, who turned 81 on Saturday, has been in office since 2005, despite the fact that his term expired six years ago and no new elections have been held. Although Abbas warned that “the Palestinian Authority is on the verge of collapse,” he has no immediate plans to quit.
“Let us have peace, and I will retire,” he said. “I don’t want to leave anything behind me.”
By: Jesse Lempel/TPS and United with Israel Staff