Bibi, Abbas: No Talks in Sight
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas reiterated their demands on Thursday in interviews with Haaretz and Al-Hayyat, respectively. While Netanyahu expressed optimism following his meeting with Abbas and United States President Barack Obama this week, Abbas said he doubts the PA and Israel will restart talks in the foreseeable future.
Obama stated Wednesday that progress had been made in the three-way meeting. However, PA and Israeli officials have no current plans to hold negotiations. While both sides have agreed to meet with U.S. officials, it appears that they will not meet with each other.
Netanyahu said Thursday that he is willing to sit down to talk with Abbas with no preconditions, but will insist that under any peace deal the PA recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland. The PA has agreed to recognize Israel, but not as a Jewish state, and still demands that millions of foreign Arabs be granted Israeli citizenship.
Abbas repeated his demand that Israel cease all construction for Jews in Judea, Samaria or areas of Jerusalem east of the 1949 armistice line. The PA head rejected Netanyahu's proposed moratorium on the building of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria, insisting that a construction freeze must include all buildings, not only homes, and must include Jerusalem.
Even a freeze on 95 percent of building “is still a continuation of settlement activities,” Abbas said.
Israeli officials have expressed surprise at Abbas's demands, noting that in the past, the PA head has not insisted on a cessation of building prior to negotiations. The PA held talks with Israel under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with no building freeze in place.
Abbas has also demanded that negotiations resume with the offer made by Olmert still on the table – a demand that Netanyahu has flatly refused. Olmert reportedly offered Abbas almost all land in Judea and Samaria, with land from west of the armistice line offered in trade for settlement blocs, as well as much of Jerusalem and a land bridge between Judea and Gaza.