P.A. Envisions a 'Settlement Free' State

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a delegation of U.S. congressmen in Ramallah Thursday he envisions a Palestinian state free of Jewish "settlements."

Abbas told the delegation, led by Minority Whip Sen. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the state would be based on the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital. 

He said his preference was to return to negotiations, but Israel's "settlement policy" was the stumbling block.

Abbas also implied the P.A.'s bid for unilateral statehood at the United Nations would undergird, rather than undermine, the peace process.

Hoyer noted the briefing by Abbas differed from that of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Abbas said the decision to go to the U.N. in September was final while Fayyad had said it was still being discussed.

Hoyer and others also took exception to the notion that a bid for statehood would undergird peace talks, saying it would be a "destabilizing effort" and the only way forward was bilateral negotiations, The Jerusalem Post reported.

At the end of May, Hoyer and Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., cosponsored a non-binding resolution urging "the administration to consider suspending assistance to the Palestinian Authority pending a review of the unity agreement" with Hamas.

The resolution also affirmed that "Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations and pursue recognition of statehood prior to agreement with Israel will harm United States-Palestinian relations and will have serious implications for the United States assistance programs and for the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority."

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