President Shimon Peres admitted on Friday that he had held secret talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
In an interview with the pan-Arabic daily Alsharq Alawsat, Peres said the meetings with Abbas were held with the knowledge and cooperation of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He added that there were signs of progress in the meetings, but the talks ended when Netanyahu wanted to give a chance to the Quartet’s recent proposal to renew talks.
Peres added that “the Quartet’s proposal did not lead to any progress and was an utter failure.” He said that Israel and the PA should return to direct talks with one another and that the Quartet is no substitute for direct negotiations.
“Each side in the Quartet has his own interests and other concerns,” Peres said, giving Russia as an example, which is standing by Syrian President Bashar Assad despite him massacring his own people.
The Quartet – which comprises the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia – presented a timetable for talks in September, after Abbas submitted his unilateral statehood bid to the United Nations.
The timetable calls for comprehensive proposals within three months on issues of territory and security, and substantial progress within six months. A peace agreement would be reached by the end of 2012.
In August, a PA official said Abbas and Peres held four secret meetings. Peres declined to confirm these reports – until now.
He told Alsharq Alawsat that talks between him and Abbas will resume on January 14 and added he is making efforts to make progress. Peres made it clear that he does not want to get into a confrontation with the government but to try to influence Netanyahu.
“There's a difference between Netanyahu and I,” he admitted, explaining that difference is that Netanyahu “does not believe as much as I do in the success of peace negotiations.” He stressed, however, that Netanyahu is interested in negotiations.
“Netanyahu is the prime minister and has various calculations and a coalition of political parties, but he knows there is no substitute for peace,” Peres said. He emphasized that despite his efforts and actions, Netanyahu is the one who ultimately makes the decisions.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)