Thursday, August 12, 2010

Abbas claims US contacts with Hamas

Mahmoud Abbas gave a wide-ranging interview to the Arab press yesterday.

Abbas said that Washington is putting him under "unprecedented" pressure to resume direct negotiations. He stated that he was still insisting on a precondition of acceptance of the 1949 armistice lines (usually referred to as the 1967 borders) as the basis of the borders of another Arab state, but he may be willing to accept a statement by the Quartet - rather than Israel - that this is the aim of the negotiations. He says that the March 19th Quartet statement affirmed that goal (I couldn't see an explicit reference to the borders in that statement, although it refers to UNSC 242.)

He again spoke about the PA's financial woes, warning that it will collapse if it doesn't get the usual amounts of money from the West. he also complained about how Arab nations are not fulfilling their pledges, without naming names.

He criticized the fatwa by Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi prohibiting Arabs from visiting Jerusalem. He said that he was politicizing religion, and that such visits are meant to show solidarity with the "prisoner," not the "warden."

Abbas said he had information from "reliable sources" about contacts between the U.S. administration and Hamas. He added: "I understand it, this is politics, and countries change their positions according to their interests." Smiling, he added: "If we refuse to go to the negotiating table tomorrow, perhaps [the US] is looking for others [to negotiate.]"

That sarcastic statement indicates that Abbas knows that he is considered the "moderate" no matter what, and that in that position he can call the shots because no one wants the alternative. And since the word "moderate" is used in relative rather than absolute terms, he knows his intransigence will never get criticized.