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Speaking to Israelis, PA President Abbas denies incitement to violence, says hand always extended for peace

Israeli Channel 2 program Fact, Ilana Dayan interview of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on March 31, 2016. This interview clearly illustrates how PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his PA and Fatah officials and media give one message to Israel and the international community, and an entirely different one to their own people and the Arab world regarding the PA’s alleged recognition of Israel and intention to accept a two-state solution. Also, Abbas here expresses shame over some of the terror murders during the terror wave, but his PA paper and PA and Fatah officials have praised the attacks. Translation from original Hebrew to English:

Israeli Channel 2 interviewer Ilana Dayan: “Mr. President, thank you for hosting us here, in Ramallah.”

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas: “You are welcome.”

Dayan: “Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to ask you to try and take me to a personal place. Have you ever discussed with your family, Mr. Abbas, with your sons, with Yasser or Tareq, the possibility that God forbid one of your grandsons would ever take a knife and take to the streets with it?”

Abbas: “I would have to be crazy to tell my son that that is the right thing to do. Or that those knife attacks (reference to wave of Palestinian terror attacks, most of which were stabbings carried out by young Palestinians, September 2015-October 2016 –Ed.) are the right thing to do.”

Dayan: “And if, God forbid, you would see one of them, Ziyad or Nour, may God protect them...”

Abbas: “Impossible.”

Dayan: “…with a knife…”

Abbas: “I would never allow them.”

Dayan: “What would you do?”

Abbas: “Would I know he had a knife and do nothing about it? You know we, our security services, are going into schools in order to look for [knives] in schools, in the students’ bags, to check if they have knives. You do not know that. In one of the schools we found 70 boys and girls carrying knives. We took the knives from them. We spoke with them and told them it was a mistake. ‘We do not want you to kill and die. We want you to live, and also that the other will live.’”

Dayan: “Could it be that they simply do not listen to you?”

Abbas: “When a child goes and takes a knife, he does not consult anyone, not even his parents, not even his brothers. He does not say: ‘I am taking a knife and going out.’ No sensible person whose son comes to him and tells him: ‘I want to take a knife and murder,’ would answer: ‘A smart idea, go.’ That is not possible. That is not possible. He will take the knife from him and lock him in the house. Parents do not want that.”

Dayan: “But after the act, they turn into a Martyr (Shahid), they are praised…”

Abbas: “Excuse me, when he dies…”

Dayan: “…they receive letters of condolence from you, and they receive compensation, and they turn into saints…”

Abbas: “When he dies, he is a Martyr. When he dies, he turns into a Martyr. A Martyr…”

Dayan: “But then he turns into an example for the next one in line.”

Abbas: “No, no.”

Dayan: “He is a role model. And then another one wants to become like him.”

Abbas: “When he dies, that is already a different matter. A different matter. I do not want him to be a Martyr. I want him to live.”

Dayan: “Was there a moment…”

Abbas: “But after he dies, it is over. I do not know where he goes. So do not take revenge on us for this.”

Dayan: “So why does it continue to happen?”

Abbas: “Ask yourselves why this boy, 15 years old, takes a knife and knowing he is going to die, and still goes. Ask yourselves why. It is because he has no hope.”

Dayan
: “Mr. President, did you watch the video of the Israeli soldier (i.e., Elor Azaria, see note below) shooting in Hebron?”

Abbas: “Yes. I saw that video. It hurt me and I was sad because of what happened. It was an inhuman act, to shoot a living person. I do not want to blame the entire Israeli people. I know the Israelis are human beings, they are humane. However, unfortunately, we heard of the responses and protests in Israel against putting that soldier on trial, against arresting that soldier. Such statements greatly disturb and frustrate us.”

Dayan: “May I say something personal?”

Abbas: “Yes, you may.”

Dayan: “I was ashamed when I saw that video. And I was shocked and upset. And I am sure that many Israelis felt as I did.”

Abbas: “Yes.”

Dayan: But I was even more ashamed when I read the polls, and saw that so many Israelis support this soldier.

Abbas: “Yes.”

Dayan: “And I want to ask you: ‘Was there a moment during the last months when you were ashamed, as a Palestinian?”

Abbas: “I do not like to see Palestinian children taking knives and stabbing Israelis.”

Dayan: “And when it happens, when you hear of a 16-year-old boy from Beit Amra that stabbed a mother to death in front of her children (i.e., Morad Adais, stabbed Dafna Meir, see note below)?”

Abbas: “Beyond any doubt, this makes me very sad. It is unacceptable. Because that woman is a human being. It is forbidden to kill a human being under any circumstances. I oppose this, I want peace. Give me peace in return. How will you give me peace? When a child does not see any hope for peace, what can he do? You tell me. What can that child do?”

Dayan: “Could it be that we have all lost part of our humanity during the long years of pain, dispute, blood, and the feeling of victimhood? Could it be that both you and we have lost something?”

Abbas: “No, no. No. We have never lost part of our humanity. Neither us, nor the Israelis. I say that the Israelis are also human beings and they have not lost their humanity. And we are also human beings, and we have never lost our humanity. We must say: What is happening is the exception. Something that should not continue. An unnatural thing, which goes against human nature, against our nature as Palestinians and yours as Israelis. If we accept the existing situation we will have no future. We want to look towards the future. The future is peace.”

Dayan: “What I am unable to understand, Mr. President, is where do you see your personal responsibility?”

Abbas: “My responsibility is to continue to extend a hand to peace. In the ten years that I am in power, my policy has been against violence, against terror, against killing. Why do they forget this now and say: ‘Abbas incites.’ To what do I incite?”

Dayan: “Can you verify the reports that during the last weeks you personally and the PA have taken steps against the incitement in the Palestinian media?”

Abbas: “At every opportunity we say that we must not bring to an escalation [the violence]… we cannot raise the level of hatred between us and the Israelis. We say that at every opportunity.”

Dayan: “But you acknowledge that there is incitement in the Palestinian media?”

Abbas: “I acknowledge it. But you also have incitement. You have incitement. Yes or no?"

Dayan: “Do you really see symmetry? From the social media: ‘Jews, we are coming to cut off your rotten heads, Allah willing,’ ‘He will cut off your heads and turn you around, the next generation is the generation of stabbers that will slaughter you,’ all under the hashtag #Massacre_the_Jews. Have you seen anywhere in the Israeli media such words that my children are exposed to?”

Abbas: “I saw the Rabbi who said: ‘They are germs . They should be sent to Saudi Arabia.’ The Rabbi. [Chief] Rabbi Joseph, what is his name?”

Dayan: “Yes.”

Abbas: “This is not right, and that is not right.”

Dayan: “So if I understand you correctly, if you could, you would stop this knife intifada?”

Abbas: “Of course. I do not want it to continue. Of course not. I want peace. I want to sit at the negotiation table. I want that child to have hope.”

Dayan: “Has there been a moment in the last five – six months, Mr. President, when you felt or thought that the PA was on the verge of collapse?”

Abbas: “I will answer you honestly, the PA is on the verge of collapse even now. It is close to collapse. Now.”

Dayan: “In other words, what does that mean?”

Abbas: “In other words, we have an agreement. I arrange the security and cooperate with you. But he [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] said to me: ‘I want to enter myself.’ I told him: ‘No, do not enter' and he answered: ‘No, I will still enter.’”

Dayan: “Because it does not happen. Because there is terror, there are knives…”

Abbas: “No, no.”

Dayan: “Young people are leaving these areas and stabbing Israelis.”

Abbas: “Give me the responsibility. I will be responsible. Give me the responsibility for the Palestinian territories, and try me. Then tell me: ‘You are responsible from here to …’ responsible. But he comes to my home. To my doorstep, here.”

Dayan: “In Ramallah?”

Abbas: “In Ramallah. The army came to my doorstep. They said: ‘Throw down your weapon.’ To my bodyguard, I mean. He replied: ‘I am the President’s bodyguard’ and the soldier said: ‘Throw down your weapon.’ He refused. And there was almost… an incident. Afterwards he stopped. Why do you come here? If something happens here, tell me: ‘There is a problem here,' I will take care of it. I tell you [Netanyahu], if we do not succeed in taking care of this issue then… come, take all of the PA yourself. Come, Mr. Netanyahu, and sit here. He should come and sit here. I have no objection. He can come and govern.”

Dayan: “However you do not do that. You do not lay the keys down.”

Abbas: “What?”

Dayan: “You only threaten. You do not give him the keys. You only threaten.”

Abbas: “It is not a threat. It is a suggestion. Come here, come here and govern, and I will salute you. If you do not want to, then there must be security cooperation between us.”

Dayan: “But Mr. President, it is very simple. Either you can take responsibility and stop the terror, or you cannot take responsibility, and then the Israeli army has to enter…”

Abbas: “I will take responsibility…”

Dayan: “…Ramallah, East Jerusalem, Jenin, Nablus, Hebron, everywhere.”

Abbas
: “OK, OK… I will take responsibility if he leaves Area A.”

Dayan: “But if he leaves Area A and you do not ‘deliver the goods,’ what will happen then?”

Abbas: “Try me.”

Dayan: “We already tried.”

Abbas: “Try me. One week. Try me. If I do not fulfill my responsibility, come back. “I guarantee. If there is particular intelligence information, give it to me and I will take care of it. If I do not take care of it, he [Netanyahu] can come and do so. Right? But they do not give me intelligence information. They say: ‘We have intelligence information, we will take care of it.’ So what am I doing here? Where is the security coordination? You do not want [it]… You want me to be your employee. Your agent. I do not accept this. I want to do it myself.”

Dayan: “So why does it continue? Why do you hold onto the security cooperation?”

Abbas: “I hold onto the security cooperation because if we renounce it, there will be chaos here. There will be rifles, explosives, and armed [people] who will appear from everywhere and want to enter Israel. I put my hand on them and stop them.”

Dayan: “So you are telling me that if not for the security cooperation, and if not for your actions, we would now be in the midst of a bloodier intifada.”

Abbas: “Of course. If not for the security cooperation, a bloody intifada would have broken out.”

Dayan: “On the other hand, you acknowledge that if not for the security cooperation, the PA could not survive. If not for this, there would be no PA.”

Abbas: “That is right.”

Dayan: “But the result for you, Mr. Abbas, is the worst of all worlds. Because you maintain the security cooperation with Israel, your people do not respect you, as they see it as collaboration… in other words a ‘collaborator’. And the Israelis for their part do not give you credit for it.”

Abbas: “I want to cooperate with the Israelis. We have an agreement, and I am not ashamed of it. But he [Netanyahu] has to respect me.”

Dayan: “Mr. President, people are stabbed every day. There are terror attacks every day.”

Abbas: “It began five months ago. Not before that.”

Dayan: “Why?”

Abbas: “Lack of hope, lack of trust.”

Dayan: “And inability on your part…”

Abbas: “No. No.”

Dayan: “to exercise your governmental authority.”

Abbas: “Why did it happen only…”

Dayan: “You say: ‘Give me responsibility. Give me responsibility.’ But what do you do with it?”

Abbas: “When the people thinks that the Israeli government does not believe in peace, does not believe in the two-state solution, builds settlements day and night, then they [the Palestinians] say: ‘We have no hope. We must do something.’”

Dayan: “That is exactly what I am saying. You do not succeed in providing security. I am not responsible, he {Netanyahu] is responsible. If he gives you responsibility tomorrow?”

Abbas: “I will do it.”

Dayan
: “Everything will be different?”

Abbas: “I will do…”

Dayan: “The stabbings will stop?”

Abbas: “No. Not only that. If he gives me responsibility and tells me that he believes in the two-state solution, and we sit around the negotiation table in order to talk about the two-state solution. This will give my people hope, and no one will dare to go out to stab, shoot, or do anything like that.”

Dayan: “Do you think that Netanyahu believes in the two-state solution?”

Abbas: “I do not know. Ask him.”

Dayan: “Do you trust him?”

Abbas: “He is the partner, he is responsible. He is the first. He must believe in peace.”

Dayan: “Why does he not act for peace?”

Abbas: “Ask him.”

Dayan: “If he invites you to a meeting tomorrow, will you come?”

Abbas: “I will meet with him.”

Dayan: “Anywhere?”

Abbas: “And at any time. And by the way, I suggested to him that we meet.”

Dayan: “You suggested to him?”

Abbas: “No, no. It is a secret, he can tell you about it.”

Dayan: “But what happened to your suggestion?”

Abbas: “He will tell you.”

Dayan: “Nothing happened? Can you speak for a moment, Mr. President, not as a politician, but rather as a human being living this painful history of both the Israelis and the Palestinians? Talk about the Israelis who think that every time we make concessions, we receive in return another wave of terror.”

Abbas: “When did you make concessions? Give me one example.”

Dayan: “At Camp David, the disengagement [from Gush Katif, the Gaza Strip]…

Abbas: “What came out of Camp David? Nothing. Nothing happened there.”

Dayan: “Obviously nothing happened, because you were not ready.”

Abbas: “Ask [former Israeli Prime Minister] Barak, who has grown a beard now, ask him what offer he made to us.”

Dayan: “So the Israelis believe that [former Israeli Prime Minsters] Barak, Sharon, and also Olmert offered a lot and received nothing in return. What do they not understand?”

Abbas: “No, no, no… Sharon gave nothing, Barak gave nothing. Olmert, yes. We sat together, face to face. We were very close to each other. Very close.”

Dayan: “And it could have happened.”

Abbas: “With Olmert, yes.”

Dayan: “And it did not happen.”

Abbas: “No, it did not happen because he… he was indicted.”

Dayan: “I am certain that from time to time you find yourself thinking: ‘What will I leave behind?’ And what if you leave nothing but a desperate nation…”

Abbas: “I hope…”

Dayan: “…whose children set out to murder and achieve only death and despair?”

Abbas: “That would be a tragedy, of course. I want to see peace in my lifetime.”

Dayan: “Do you still believe that will happen?”

Abbas: “To see peace. Why not? Why not? Why do we not make peace now? Now. Not your movement Peace Now. Peace, now, here. Let us draw the borders and begin. In one day.”

Dayan: “So… one moment. You suggest something interesting. You say: ‘Let’s draw the borders and afterwards we will talk about all the rest.’

Abbas: “Yes, we will talk about it immediately.”

Dayan: “The right of return, Jerusalem, water… refugees, everything afterwards.”

Abbas: “Everything needs to be agreed upon. Why? I want to put an end to the conflict. I do not want to make a peace agreement that will falter from here or there. I do not want to leave anything behind.”

Dayan: “Do you still believe that you will see the day that a Palestinian state is established alongside Israel?”

Abbas: “I hope so. I still extend a hand to Mr. Netanyahu because I believe in peace. I believe that the people in Israel want peace and that the Palestinian people want peace. Either we politicians will do it, or we will leave it to the people. They will do it within a week.”

Dayan: “Are you not tired?”

Abbas: “Of course I am tired. But what can I do? If you were in my place? I do not have options. Let us make peace and I will retire.”

Dayan: “Mr. President, I thank you very much for this interview. Thank you for hosting us.”

Elor Azaria - a 20-year-old sgt. and combat medic in the Israeli army who shot 21-year-old Palestinian terrorist Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sharif in the head as he lay wounded on the ground and killed him in Hebron on March 24, 2016, shortly after Al-Sharif, together with 21-year-old terrorist Ramzi Aziz Al-Qasrawi, had stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier. Al-Qasrawi was shot and killed during the attack. Azaria has stated that he shot Al-Sharif because he saw him moving and thought he might have a bomb on him and be trying to detonate it - other sources, including a Magen David Adom investigative committee and a military criminal investigator, have confirmed that this possibility had not been ruled out. The shooting and killing was filmed by a Palestinian activist of the NGO B’Tselem. Azaria was condemned by many Israeli politicians and officials following the incident, particularly then Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and Azaria was put on trial on charges of manslaughter. As of July 4, 2016, his trial is still ongoing.

Morad Adais – 15-year-old Palestinian terrorist who stabbed 38-year-old Israeli Dafna Meir to death in front of her children in her home in Otniel, south of Hebron, on Jan. 17. 2016. Adais was apprehended and arrested after two days by Israeli security forces.