Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) denied on Tuesday that President Shimon Peres had reached a peace agreement with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas three years ago.
Peres exposed the agreement in an Independence Day interview with Channel 2 News, during which he said that he had held talks with Abbas at the request of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Peres also said that Netanyahu ultimately backed down from the deal.
"Abbas never agreed to anything. Back then as well he just wanted to receive without giving anything in return,” the PMO told Channel 2 News. “This is his method - to be ambiguous until he is pushed to make a decision, and then run away.”
“Anyone who hugs the terrorist Khaled Mashaal on Memorial Day does not want an agreement,” added the PMO, referring to Abbas’s meeting this week with the leader of Hamas regarding a unity pact signed between the sides.
In the interview with Channel 2, Peres revealed that he and Abbas had reached an agreement on all issues of contention, but Netanyahu ultimately backed down from the deal, thinking there was a better brought forth by Quartet envoy Tony Blair.
According to Peres, Abbas agreed during the talks with him to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
"He has to agree to a Jewish state and we have to agree to have a Palestinian state," said Peres. "In fact, we both agreed on this.”
Peres further revealed that he and Abbas had spoken about the borders of the future Palestinian state, saying, "We took out maps. Instead of talking about the pre-1967 borders we talked about the size of the state and its borders. That allows for land swaps, establishment of settlement blocs and the like. He agreed to that.”
Three years ago it was revealed that Peres and Abbas had held four secret meetings in a bid to revive stalled peace talks.
Back then, too, it was revealed that a fifth meeting between the two had been scheduled in Amman, but Peres cancelled it, saying that “the government does not accept that we negotiate and I cannot do anything.”
Israel's president's role is defined as ceremonial and apolitical, but Peres, more than any other president in Israel's history, has ignored that and has several times made statements that are contrary to the views of Israel’s elected government.
In addition, Peres has continued to insist that talks continue, even after they were torpedoed by the PA.