Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas, current chairman of the Palestinian Authority, claims that Israel is trying to assassinate him. Abbas told an Egyptian news agency this week that Israel had murdered his predecessor,Yasser Arafat – despite Arafat’s commitment to peace – and that he is afraid of suffering the same fate. The PA chairman, who enjoys massive political and economic backing from Western powers, further stated that he is not prepared to resume negotiations with Israel until all Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria is halted, claiming the current 10-month ban by the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Jewish building in the area is not sufficient for a return to negotiations.
Abbas’s remarks came against the backdrop of intense American efforts to quickly resume negotiations between Israel and the PA. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called this week on the local parties to resume talks without any pre-conditions. Speaking to reporters in Washington this week, Clinton reiterated that the United States would seek “an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles…the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines.”
According to reports from Jerusalem, Israel has been under increased American pressure in recent weeks to placate Mahmoud Abbas through confidence-building concessions. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received a visit earlier in the week from U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones who, according to sources within the Prime Minister’s Office, focused the two-day meeting on pressuring Netanyahu to take steps that would entice Abbas back to the negotiating table.
Jones, a former NATO general, had been a major regional player during the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush. Following his meetings with Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Jones traveled on Thursday to Ramallah for talks with Abbas, who reiterated his position that Israel’s 10-month construction ban is not a sufficient concession for him to return to negotiations. Abbas further claimed that more than 50 percent of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria lie empty, and that Israel has no legitimate need to build more. Despite showing Abbas general support, American officials have not commented on his claims that the Jewish State is attempting to assassinate him.