Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Abbas Refuses to Negotiate with Israel

by David Bedein

Even after meeting on Monday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is sticking to his view that peace negotiations with Israel should not begin until Israel meets his demands, including a complete halt to all construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

A high-ranking Israeli government source said “the Palestinians want an American guarantee on the matter of Jerusalem and the refugees.”

“President Mubarak told me that Jerusalem must be part of the negotiations,” Mr. Abbas said yesterday right after the conclusion of his meeting with the Egyptian president in Sharm el-Sheikh, which was also attended by Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Director of Egyptian Intelligence General Omar Suleiman.

The meeting took place just a few days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer’s meeting with President Mubarak, which was meant to put pressure on the Palestinians to begin negotiations with Israel.

In the course of the meeting with the Palestinian leader, Mubarak reviewed the subjects that had come up in his meeting with Netanyahu, but Abbas was not impressed.

“We don’t want to pass judgment on proposals that at the moment are still vague,” he said. “We have no objection in principle to negotiations or to meetings. We are not posing conditions, but we’ve said over and over and are still saying - when the construction in the settlements stops and there is recognition of international principles, we will be willing to renew the negotiations.”

Hossam Zaki, a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, confirmed yesterday that the American administration had drawn up a new plan, in which the Palestinian state is to be established within two years.

Egyptian officials Suleiman and Aboul Gheit have traveled to the United States to meet with American and British officials to discuss these proposals. Mr. Zaki said that the plan will include a presentation of Israeli and Palestinian guarantees.

At this stage, the goal of Egypt, the U.S. and of Israel is to hold a summit early next month at which the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will be launched under the sponsorship of Egypt and with the participation of the U.S. and Jordan. After yesterday’s meeting, Abbas rejected this scenario, but the top political echelon in Israel has not lost its optimism.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is involved behind the scenes in restarting the negotiations, said last night, “the goal is to shorten the foreplay, to shorten the corridor quickly and to move quickly onto the path of negotiations at the end of which there will be an agreement based on two states for two peoples.”

In contrast, a person projecting a clear lack of optimism is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who met this week with Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. Mr. Lieberman told Blair that it would be impossible to reach agreement on the permanent borders within nine months and a full agreement within two years. “This is not a realistic goal, and therefore what we have to do is to begin direct talks without committing to and sanctifying a date,” he said.

See the original at The Philadelphia Bulletin: Abbas Refuses to Negotiate with Israel

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