Abbas Sets Conditions for Extension of Talks
Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to extend peace talks with Israel, but only if certain conditions are met, a PA official told the Ma’an news agency on Monday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that during a recent meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Abbas agreed to extend peace negotiations if Israel pledged to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria and release more terrorist prisoners.
The official told Ma’an that a good test to see if Israel is serious about making concessions will be whether it releases the last of the four groups of terrorist prisoners it agreed to free before talks began in July.
The official said that if Israel delayed the release of the last group of terrorists, the PA would turn to international organizations, a threat it has made several times in the past.
Israel agreed to release 104 terrorists in four batches as a “gesture” to Abbas. Three of the four releases have already gone through, but the PA chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, admitted earlier this month that Abbas was staying in talks solely for the sake of the terrorist releases. In the wake of these statement, government ministers have been pressuring Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to go through with the fourth release.
Abbas has consistently said that unless all his preconditions are met, there will be no peace with Israel. At the same time, he has refused to agree to Netanyahu’s demand that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state in order to achieve peace.
On Sunday, Erekat once again accused Israel of taking “actions against the Palestinian people” that indicate that it has “chosen settlers over peace.”
The comments came several days after Erekat declared that Israel would have to choose between “settlements” and peace.