Israeli officials slammed Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's speech before the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Central Council on Saturday, criticizing him for reiterating one-sided ultimatums and dealing a death blow to the peace talks.
The officials told AFP that Abbas "administered the coup de grace to the peace process today. (He) recycled the same conditions, after he already knows Israel won't accept them."
Abbas said in his speech Saturday that talks with Israel could only continue if Israel submits to a freeze on construction in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, releases jailed terrorists, and starts agreeing to borders for a Palestinian state.
The PA chairman has "time and again" blocked Israeli and US efforts to extend talks according to the officials, who note at the beginning of the month he violated "existent agreements by unilaterally applying to the UN conventions."
The officials noted that Abbas's Fatah faction signed a reconciliation deal with Hamas last Wednesday, "while Israel was making sincere efforts to advance negotiations with the Palestinians."
No Recognition of Jewish Homeland
"The upcoming government will obey my policy," Abbas claimed before the PLO council, speaking about the unity government that he has agreed to form with Hamas within five weeks. Parliamentary and presidential elections are to be held within six months of the administration's formation.
The PA chairman declared that the new unity government would not continue peace talks - rather he stated that it was the responsibility of the PLO to negotiate.
"I recognize Israel and reject violence and terrorism, and recognize international commitments," Abbas claimed, even while re-declaring that he and his government would never recognize Israel as the Jewish state.
Abbas's outright refusal to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people has brought the talks, which are days before their April 29 deadline, to a constant halt, even before he breached conditions by applying to 15 international conventions at the start of the month.
Abbas continued by declaring that his unity government would not agree to receive a state in the heart of Israel, unless eastern Jerusalem was its capital.
In conclusion, Abbas reiterated his threats, made twice last week, to disband the PA and turn over responsibility to govern Judea and Samaria over to Israel.
"If they (Israel) don't want to commit there is the other solution - for them to take over everything," Abbas said.
Hamas supports "mostly positive" speech
For its part, the terrorist group Hamas which rules Gaza expressed its less than overwhelming support for Abbas's speech.
The "speech had mostly positive points, and we cannot but support it on... not recognizing (Israel as) the Jewish state," said Bassem Naim, adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
"It is not the government's mission to take care of political issues," Naim commented in response to Abbas's declaration that peace talks would be tasked to the PLO, not to the unity government.
The government "has only three main missions: unifying the Palestinian organizations, preparing for elections and reconstructing Gaza," stated Naim.
Despite being invited, Hamas delegates did not participate in the Saturday meeting.
Aziz Dweik, the Hamas speaker of the Palestinian parliament, told AFP the group had stayed away because "we need a central council that is effective, not merely window dressing."