JERUSALEM – President-elect Barack Obama today phoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and pledged to work to establish a Palestinian state as soon as possible, a senior PA negotiator told WND.
“Obama expressed his full support for a Palestinian state. He told the president (Abbas) he will continue to promote the peace process, which will end with a two-state solution,” said the PA’s second most senior negotiator, Saeb Erekat.
“Obama said he will keep working in collaboration with the Israeli government and PA to reach a final solution. He said he’ll do everything in his power to help create a Palestinian state as soon as we can,” Erekat told WND.
It was the first phone call between Abbas and Obama, Erekat added.
Obama’s transition spokesman Nick Shapiro did not immediately return a WND e-mail and phone request seeking comment.
The call comes two weeks after a reported flair-up on Election Day in which a senior Palestinian official told WND the Obama campaign urged Palestinian officials to deny an Arab media report that the then-Democratic nominee confided to Palestinian leadership that he supports their right to a capital in eastern Jerusalem.
The episode began after a Lebanese newspaper story Nov. 3 quoted sources in Ramallah who claimed that in a meeting in July with Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the two heard from Obama “the best things they ever heard from an American presidential candidate.”
The report in the Al-Akhbar daily, known to have close contacts to Palestinian leaders in Lebanon, claimed Obama told Abbas and Fayyad he “supports the rights of the Palestinians to east Jerusalem, as well as their right to a stable, sovereign state,” but he petitioned them to keep the remarks confidential.
Asked for comment by WND, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat at the time would neither confirm nor deny knowledge of Obama’s purported remarks. Abbas political adviser Namer Hamad subsequently issued a denial to reporters.
But a senior official confirmed to WND that Obama said in a July trip to the region he favored a “negotiated settlement” that may grant the PA control over sections of Jerusalem.
The official, a longtime reliable source, claimed to WND that Obama advisers on Election Day engaged in a series of intense conversations asking that Abbas’ office issue a denial.
The Lebanese report echoed a similar exclusive WND article immediately following Obama’s meeting with Abbas and Fayyad in which a senior Palestinian source said Obama informed the Palestinians he supports a “negotiated settlement” that may grant the PA control over sections of Jerusalem.
“He assured us there was a misunderstanding when he said in [June] he supports the Israelis’ rights to hold on to Jerusalem,” the PA official, who took part in the meeting with Obama, told WND at the time. “He told us he corrected this right away and that he supports a negotiated settlement that will give the Palestinians territory.”
The official was referring to a speech Obama delivered in June to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in which he stated if he is elected president, “Jerusalem would remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”
Immediately following the speech, Obama reversed himself during a CNN appearance, explaining he meant Jerusalem shouldn’t be physically divided with a partition.
“Well, obviously, it’s going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues. And Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations,” he said in response to a question about whether Palestinians have a legitimate claim to the city.
Obama said that “as a practical matter, it would be very difficult to execute” a division of the city.
“And I think that it is smart for us to, to work through a system in which everybody has access to the extraordinary religious sites in Old Jerusalem but that Israel has a legitimate claim on that city.”
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