Abbas tells U.S. Jews hes more optimistic now

In a meeting with U.S. Jewish leaders this week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he is more hopeful now for peace than he was in the mid-2000s.

“If you ask me this question during the intifada, I didn’t have an answer,” Abbas said on Sept. 23, referring to the 2000-2005 second intifada. “Hatred, guns, killing, it destroyed everything. Now I can say we have something to talk about.”

Abbas was attending a meeting convened in New York by the Center for Middle East Peace, a group founded by diet mogul Daniel Abraham and headed by Robert Wexler, a former Florida congressman.

At the meeting were leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements; Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women; and leaders of Jewish pro-peace groups. Also on hand were former top U.S. officials, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Abbas said he remained committed to a two-state solution and urged the meeting participants to press the Israeli government to end settlement expansion in the West Bank “so that the state of Palestine can live side by side with the State of Israel in peace and security on the ’67 borders,” he said. “I urge the Israeli government to focus on building peace and not building settlements.”

Abbas was in New York to attend the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.

The PA leader said achieving a final-status peace deal within nine months — as envisioned by President Barack Obama — was “not impossible.”

Abbas noted that six of his eight grandchildren had attended Seeds of Peace, a U.S. program that establishes relationships among youths from Israel, the Palestinian areas, other Arab nations and the United States.

“‘I will go again and again and again,’ ” he quoted one of his grandchildren as saying. — jta