Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets Israeli delegation in Ramallah, May 17, 2016. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to end its regional dominance in advance of his address before the European Parliament on Thursday.

“If Israel seeks peace with its Arab neighbors it has to start by ending its hegemony on the region and to stop violating the rights of our people,” Abbas said.

“Then we will be able to implement the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002,” Abbas added. He spoke in Arabic and his words were translated into English by the EU.

The PA President spoke during a joint press conference he held with the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini within hours after landing in Belgium.

His arrival coincides with the simultaneous visit of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who addressed the European Parliament on Wednesday and is scheduled to meet with Mogherini on Thursday.

Rivlin and Abbas both have offices just about an hour’s drive from one another, with one working in Jerusalem and the other in Ramallah.

Yet their joint presence in Brussels has fueled speculation that an accidental or intentional meeting between them might occur.

The flurry of diplomatic activity in Brussels comes as the European Union is pushing, along with France, to jumpstart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process which has been frozen for over two years.

At a brief press event with Rivlin and the head of the European Parliament Martin Schultz, an Israeli reporter about the possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian meeting.

“Is a meeting between President Rivlin and President Abbas about to happen here in Brussels today or tomorrow,” she asked.

Schultz response opened the door to the possibility of some kind of exchange between the two men.

“The diplomatic progress depends a little bit on the time tables of both. If they are both crossing the floors of the European Parliament, I think they will not run away.”

Rivlin added, “I assure you I will not run away.”

The EU has thrown its support behind a newly iniatived During her press conference with Abbas Mogherini spoke of existing peace processes, including the French initiative and a much anticipated Quaret report that is expected to diagnose the reasons why past initiatives to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have failed.

The Quaret report was expected to be published in the coming days, Mogherini said, and would include recommendations to Israeli and Palestinians on how to refrain from steps that harmed the possibility of a two-state solution.

“The internal community and Europe has a responsibility to create an international and regional framework to facilitate the two state solution,” Mogherini said.

She called for an end to settlement activity, the demolition of Palestinian homes, violence and incitement.

“We are extremely worried about the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East,” she said.

“It’s extremely dangerous,” she said. Abbas said he supported both the French Initiative and the 2002 Arab Peace plan which offers Israel normalized ties with Arab states in return for a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

In the past he has rejected Israeli calls for direct talks and has preferred an internationalized process with a set timetable. He spoke with Mogherini about the need to set such an end date for an Israeli withdrawal.

“We are committed to free our land and our people,” said Abbas. Israel, he charged, “is pushing the region into more bloodshed and extremism.”

“We are keen on a just peace that guarantees security to everyone, that brings an end to the Israeli occupation of land and makes it possible of your people to live in dignity and freedom on our land side by side with Israel,” Abbas said.

Rivlin also spoke of the importance of a two-state solution when he addressed the EU Parliament earlier in the day, noting that every prime minister since 1993 had called for such a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I do know that any political agreement brought before the Israeli Knesset by an elected government will be approved,” he said.

Rivlin spoke against the French Initiative which he said would only distance peace. What was needed, he said, was for both sides to take steps to create the conditions for the resolution of the conflict.

“It is no easy task for me to stand here before you today and say that at this time, a permanent agreement for peace between us and the Palestinians cannot be achieved,” Rivlin said.

But he added, he hoped that such a peace would be possible in the future. “I believe in the capability of both these peoples to live with each other, for the simple reason that we have no other choice. If we desire life, we must, today, invest our utmost efforts in what can be achieved, not in that which cannot – for the sake of our future, and that of our children.”

As reported by The Jerusalem Post