After refusing to talk to Israel for three years, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has caved in to pressure from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and has agreed to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Channel 2 News reported on Monday that Abbas has told his associates that he would be willing to meet Netanyahu, but for a limited time period in order to test the seriousness of the Prime Minister’s intentions to reach a peace agreement.
Abbas said, according to Channel 2, that if Netanyahu does not present serious proposals in the upcoming talks, he will announce that the PA cannot continue to function when there is a political stalemate and will again unilaterally turn to the United Nations.
Since 2010, Abbas has refused to directly talk to Netanyahu, insisting instead on a full construction freeze in Judea and Samaria as one of his endless preconditions for negotiations with Israel. A previous 10-month freeze failed to lure Abbas to the negotiating table; he agreed to talk shortly before the freeze was scheduled to end, but broke off talks immediately when it was not extended.
Last week Abbas said he supports Kerry's efforts to revive peace talks with Israel. Kerry will return to the Middle East on Thursday, with a stop in Jordan before making his fifth visit to meet Israeli and PA leaders.
In recent weeks, Kerry has been pushing the sides to resume peace talks, and recent reports indicated that he has proposed that Israel freeze construction east of the 1949 armistice line so the talks can resume.
Last week, Housing Minister Uri Ariel confirmed that Prime Minister Netanyahu had ordered him to freeze construction bids in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.
Netanyahu has consistently called on Abbas to return to the negotiating table without preconditions. Last week he told The Washington Post, “If Secretary Kerry, whose efforts we support, were to pitch a tent halfway between here and Ramallah — that’s 15 minutes away driving time — I’m in it, I’m in the tent. And I’m committed to stay in the tent and negotiate for as long as it takes to work out a solution of peace and security between us and the Palestinians.”
Netanyahu has emphasized that Israel wants peace, but it is not willing to sacrifice its security for it.