Front-runner Mahmoud Abbas, in a speech formally opening his campaign for the Palestinian presidency, said yesterday that he has chosen a path of negotiations and peace, and called...

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JERUSALEM — Front-runner Mahmoud Abbas, in a speech formally opening his campaign for the Palestinian presidency, said yesterday that he had chosen a path of negotiations and peace, and he called on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners and end its occupation of all land seized in the 1967 war.

Abbas, 69, is considered likely to win the vote on Jan. 9 to succeed Yasser Arafat as head of the Palestinian Authority, but his margin of victory will be watched very carefully.

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Abbas has already succeeded Arafat as leader of the more-important Palestine Liberation Organization, from which the authority was structured.

In an interview, Hani al-Hassan, a former interior minister and central committee member of the group’s major Fatah faction, said he hoped Abbas would receive 75 percent of the vote, to provide him with legitimacy and authority. Some of those close to Abbas, who is not a naturally adept politician, are saying that 65 percent of the vote would be welcome.

In his speech in Ramallah, Abbas told hundreds of supporters: “We are choosing the path of peace and negotiation. If there is no peace here, there will be no peace in the Middle East or the rest of the world.”

But his terms, at least as uttered publicly in a political speech yesterday, were uncompromising. “Israel must pull out of all Palestinian lands occupied in 1967,” he said. “We cannot compromise on Jerusalem,” he said, adding that there must be a just settlement to the refugee issue and the right of return.

“A state that is cut up by settlements cannot be a state,” he said. “It will be cantons.”

While he uttered the standard positions of Arafat, Abbas differs markedly in his rejection of violence as a tactic toward statehood.

He has called for an end to the four-year intifada against Israel and is trying to reach a cease-fire with militant groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.