Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a special “Hope for Peace” prize at the Steiger Award ceremony in Germany on Saturday.
The Steiger Award said on its website that it had chosen to hand the prize to Abbas as a “clear signal” vis-a-vis the stagnating Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
In a speech during the ceremony in the German city of Dortmund, Abbas said that the Palestinian Authority (PA), which he heads, had created a committee to “maintain and support tolerance and coexistence” between Palestinians and Israelis, with the goal of achieving a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
Abbas stated that the Palestinian struggle against Israel was not anti-Semitic, “but rather against occupation which controls our people and land,” restating his respect for Judaism.
Abbas added that the PA stood against “terrorism, violence, and extremism in our region and in the world, regardless of its source or its types.”
Hamas, the de facto ruling party in the besieged Gaza Strip, denounced on Sunday Abbas’ statements in Germany regarding a two-state solution, saying that the PA president’s stance on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict only laid claim to 22 percent of historical Palestine for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Such small demands, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said, were “extremely dangerous” and constituted a “national crime that negates the Palestinian people’s right in their lands and strengthen the occupation.”
While the Steiger Award says it recognizes individuals for their “straightforwardness, openness, humanity and tolerance,” Abbas has faced growing anger at home.
Elected president of the PA in 2005, Abbas indefinitely extended his mandate in 2009.
In the 12 years of Abbas’ rule, the PA has been on the receiving end of mounting criticism over its corruption and seeming inability to advance towards a just solution for Palestinians.
However, it is the PA’s security coordination with Israel — which has been denounced by critics as a “revolving door policy” of funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons — which has become the most prominent target for critics of Abbas’ government, as detention raids by Palestinian police have sparked violent clashes, in recent weeks.
The killing of prominent Palestinian activist Basel al-Araj at the hands of Israeli forces earlier this month, months after he was released from Palestinian custody, has also inspired anti-PA protests, which were violently suppressed by Palestinian police.