Abbas Turns Down ‘Freeze’ Offer

The Palestinian Authority swiftly turned down Netanyahu’s offer for a renewed building freeze if Abbas were to recognize Israel as Jewish.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 18:16

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
Flash 90

The Palestinian Authority Monday swiftly turned down Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s offer for a renewal of the building freeze if PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas were to recognize Israel as Jewish.

Both Abbas’ spokesman and his chief negotiators told foreign news agencies that Prime Minister Netanyahu can forget about his proposal. Spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah told Reuters, "The issue of the Jewishness of the state has nothing to do with the matter.”

PA negotiator Saeb Erekat told the French news agency AFP, "This order has nothing to do with the peace process or with the obligations that Israel has not implemented. This is completely rejected.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s challenge, made in his speech marking the opening of the winter session of the Knesset, effectively put the ball back into the court of Abbas and may take the limelight off the United States.

The Arab League on Saturday gave the Obama administration 30 days to pressure Israel into reviewing the recently-expired 10-month building freeze as a condition for the return to direct talks on establishing the Palestinian Authority as a sovereign state on land restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s preparedness to renew the building freeze is the clearest evidence to date that the United States offered Israel several guarantees if it were to renew the freeze. The Obama administration reportedly promised that the freeze would last for 60 days and would be the final opportunity for both Israel and the PA to agree on borders of the proposed new Arab state.

The U.S. government also promised not to support any United Nations resolutions dealing with the PA and Israel for a period of one year, the deadline U.S. President Barack Obama has set for a peace agreement. His government also offered several security guarantees.