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Daily Israel Report

Abbas Says ‘No’ to US Freeze Proposal

Abbas consults with Egypt and turns down the US proposal for a new freeze on Jewish homes – unless it formally includes parts of Jerusalem.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 11/21/2010, 2:15 PM

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Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday turned down the U.S.-proposed plan for resumed talks with Israel because it does not include a freeze on building Jewish homes in large areas of Jerusalem, populated by Jews, where the PA wants to make the capital of its desired new Arab state.

Abbas' rejection may take Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu off the hook from trying to overcome growing opposition to the plan, which he has not yet presented to the Cabinet for approval.

As of Sunday morning, the government hasn’t addressed the question of whether Cabinet approval would be dependent on Palestinian Authority acceptance of the freeze proposal, government spokesman Mark Regev told Israel National News. He said that the question is moot until a moratorium proposal is formally presented. Abbas' rejection may preclude an action by Israel or, on the other hand, could prompt Israeli approval on the assumption it is irrelevant.

Abbas had been silent about the proposal until Sunday, preferring to let Israel state whether it would accept the idea of a one-time 90-day freeze on all building for Jews in Judea and Samaria.

In exchange, the United States is to provide Israel with more advanced F-35 planes – which are at least two years away from being manufactured – and an American promise to veto any United Nations resolution that would unilaterally recognize the PA as a state, presumably according to Israel’s old borders determined by the 1949 Armistice Line. These are dependent on reaching an agreement within the three month period, according to government sources.

Apparently speaking out of fears that Israel’s acceptance of the proposal would officially leave Jerusalem out of non-negotiable demands by the PA, Abbas said in Cairo, "We will not accept an offer to resume negotiations if the settlement freeze is not comprehensive, in other words it must include Jerusalem.

Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat set the stage for Abbas’s comments earlier in the day, stating that if Israel were to recognize the Palestinian Authority according to the 1949-1967 ceasefire lines,  including the Old City, and the Jerusalem densely populated Jewish neighborhoods of French Hill, Ramot and Gilo, among others, the PA would sign a commitment to relinquish all claims to “historic Palestine” from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The  narrow 1949-1967 lines were  termed  "Auschwitz borders" by the Israel's late Labor UN ambassador Abba Eban.

Abbas’ rejection comes as U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell was to meet him in Egypt before flying to Jerusalem Monday for talks with Israel officials.