Israel: No Preconditions For Talks with PA
Late last night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and members of his close inner cabinet decided to reject any preconditions as a basis for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Talks with the PA appear to be imminent, and the Quartet of Nations (the U.S., UN, EU, and Russia) is expected to issue a proposed framework for the talks in the next day or two which would included several such preconditions.
Israel may be holding out for U.S. intervention. “The Quartet statement is a fig leaf. We would accept only an American statement that would not include preconditions,” the Jerusalem Post reported a government source as saying. It is unclear what stance the U.S. will take on the issue of preconditions and if it would issue such an invitation.
Among the latest moves towards talks was yesterday's meeting of U.S. envoy David Hale with PA Chairman Machmoud Abbas in Ramallah. After the meeting, Abbas reported that some progress was made, but would not elaborate more. Israel also appears to be making moves to show that it is 'warming up' to the PA, such as the removal of the cement security wall which surrounds the neighborhood of Gilo in the south part of Jerusalem. The wall had been erected to defend the community against Arab mortar attacks and shooting from nearby Beit Jala. Yesterday, work on the removal of the wall began.
In the past, PA leaders including Abbas and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat have claimed that Netanyahu is not serious about negotiations. Among Abbas's demands for preconditions have been Israel's acceptance of Palestinian statehood in Judea and Samaria, and the halting of Jewish building over the green line during talks. An Israeli official said yesterday that such preconditions are unacceptable.