(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) MAHMOUD ABBAS has opened a Pandora's box. The Palestinian president's quest to be seen as a partner for peace has put him in trouble.
His interview with Israel's Channel-2 TV has once again kickstarted a debate over the Palestinian refugees' right to return to the territories occupied by the Jewish state. Abbas, by offering to be on the moderate and lenient side, has ostensibly hurt the sentiments of many fellow Palestinians who regard it as their lifelong dream to go back to their ancestral lands once the imbroglio is resolved. Abbas, by saying that his birth place, Safed - now under Israeli tutelage by virtue of being occupied in the 1967 war - will no more be part of a future Palestinian state, has unnecessarily puzzled the entire geographic paradigm.
This undue concession to Israel has locked Abbas in a confrontation with Hamas, and the like, who deny Israel even the right to exist and want to create a Palestinian state as it was before the 1948 war.
This is why the president and his Palestinian Authority are in a debriefing session trying to make a point that what Abbas meant was "1948 Palestine" and that the president was, therefore, talking solely about the land occupied in 1967. But that hasn't come to serve any damage control, and rather put his political obsession of seeing a with pre-1967 borders Palestinian state in a quandary.
Nonetheless, Abbas hasn't faltered in making it categorically clear that Palestine for him is the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital. But the point where he blinked is in saying that West Bank and Gaza are only bona fide Palestine territories, and the rest is Israel. This is where historians and many of his critics disagree with him. Abbas' unnecessary gibe is likely to weaken his momentum at the United Nations where he had been campaigning to attain the non-member observer status. The reason is: the Palestinian Authority chief will be presented as one who has officially accepted the territorial gains that Israel made in 1948-9 - a hugely controversial concession in the eyes of many Arabs.
Abbas, having promised the international community that under him there won't be any third Intifada, sits on a tricky plateau of uneasy peace. Without any prejudice to what he said in the interview, or otherwise, the stated position of the Palestinian Authority is quite obvious. It can't be twisted with the dubious intent of denying the dispossessed nation its fundamental to have a free and sovereign state. The dilemma of segregating Palestinians into different thought-zones has to come to an end.