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Abbas: Israel to Blame if Talks Fail

PA President Abbas said Israel will be at fault if direct peace talks fail over Judea and Samaria construction freeze.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/30/2010, 3:09 AM / Last Update: 8/30/2010, 3:03 AM

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday that if upcoming direct talks between Israel and the PA will fail, Israel would be to blame if it continues to build in Judea and Samaria.

In a televised speech, Abbas said: "Israel alone will bear the responsibility of threatening these negotiations with collapse and failure if it continues settlement expansion in all its forms in all the Palestinian lands occupied since 1967."

Abbas added: "I hope that we find a partner in Israel that will be able to make decisions and take a responsible stance on ending the occupation. That way we can achieve true security for both peoples, Israeli and Palestinian."

The 10-month freeze announced by Israel on construction in Judea and Samaria is scheduled to end on September 26. The PA has threatened to pull out of the talks unless Israel extends the freeze. Last week, PA chief negotiator Saeb Erakat warned that Israel must choose between "settlements or peace" when direct negotiations resume, reported AFP.

Although both US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Quarter said that the direct talks, scheduled to begin this Thursday in Washington, will be held without preconditions including discussions on the extension of the freeze, US State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley has said that the building freeze will indeed be discussed during the direct talks.

"The issue of settlements, the issue of the moratorium... has been a topic of discussion and will be a topic of discussion when the leaders meet with Secretary Clinton on September 2," said Crowley.

Meanwhile, Arab League chief Amr Moussa said during an interview with Reuters on Sunday that he is not optimistic that the direct talks will be successful.

"We are hoping that talks will succeed but we are all very pessimistic about the viability of the peace process because of the past experience. The only reason (for the hope in the success of the talks) is the sincerity of President Obama and his wish to achieve something good in his presidency," said Moussa.

At the same time pressure continues on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from within his government to discontinue the building freeze after September 26. The Jewish Home / New NRP said Sunday that it will leave the coalition if the freeze is extended. Netanyahu on his part has made it clear that there is no change in the government decision regarding the freeze, and hinted that construction would be renewed at the date that was set for this.

MK Dan Meridor has proposed resuming construction only in the “settlement blocs” that Israel intends to keep in any future peace deal. Netanyahu, however, emphasized that Meridor's position is his personal one and does not reflect the view of the government.