President Mahmoud Abbas warned Tuesday that Palestine would file a petition to the International Criminal Court if Israel follows through on announced plans to build settlements in the flashpoint E1 area of the occupied West Bank.
Speaking at a news conference in Ankara, Abbas said, “Israel’s announcement to build settlements on the land of the State of Palestine is an aggressive act and a red line which we will not allow.
“It is a breach of international conventions, namely the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
According to the official Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa, Abbas said the Israeli government should decide whether it wants to continue with settlement construction and occupation, or to achieve peace which will secure safety and stability in the region.
“From Turkey we extend a hand for peace and we are ready for serious efforts to achieve this peace,” Abbas said, according to Wafa.
“If Israel chooses peace, they will find us completely ready, but if they choose settlement, especially in area E1, we will react differently,” Abbas said.
Israel, meanwhile, said the Palestinians were only interested in formulating preconditions to talks.
“It seems that the Palestinian side is interested in the further development of preconditions. We reject this and are interested to negotiate without preconditions,” said Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Earlier Tuesday, Nimr Hammad, Abbas’ political adviser, reiterated the position that credile negotiations could not resume without a freeze in settlement building.
Gendelman told Ma’an that settlement building was not an obstacle to talks and that international pressure should focus on urging Palestine, not Israel, to return to negotiations.
He also said European condemnation of the plans only emboldened the Palestinians to continue refusing to negotiate, after the EU said it was “deeply dismayed” by the plans.
“Israel does not need international pressure to return to negotiations,” Gendelman said. “We must put pressure on the Palestinian side,” he said.
In his remarks in Ankara, Abbas said he was confident that Turkey would support Palestine seeking recognition as full member state in the UN.
“We will continue to consult all our friends in a positive and responsible manner about the future steps,” Abbas was quoted as saying by Wafa.
“Our top priority now is to realize our people’s right to freedom and independence ending 65 years of suffering,” he said.