Abbas: We're Willing to Resume Talks, But...
Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday that he was ready to resume negotiations with Israel but, as he has done in the past, placed preconditions.
Speaking in a television interview and quoted by the Ma’an news agency, Abbas conditioned a return to talks on Israel releasing the fourth batch of terrorist prisoners and freezing construction in Judea and Samaria for three months.
Israel cancelled the fourth terrorist release "gesture" in early April, after the PA requested to join 15 international agencies in breach of the conditions of the peace talks. Israel subsequently pulled out of the talks altogether, after the PA signed the unity pact with Hamas.
Abbas said in Thursday’s interview that it was Israel that had halted the negotiations, and that Israel had threatened to stop allowing the transfer of funds to the Palestinian Authority, a threat he called a form of "gangsterism."
He further claimed, according to Ma’an, that so far he had not heard a response from Israel on the resumption of talks, but that the PA continued to plan on joining international organizations if Israel does not agree to the conditions he had imposed.
The Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) central council has adopted a plan to pursue attempts to join 60 United Nations bodies and international agreements, and the PA’s UN envoy has claimed that the PA is eligible to join up to 550 international treaties and conventions, including the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Abbas also said on Thursday that he was not going to disband the PA but that if Israel wants to "bring down" the Palestinian Authority that it should do so, and that in that case Palestinian Arabs have the right to go to international bodies and to demand Israel take responsibility.
Abbas also commented on demands that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but refused to do so once again, claiming that Israel had failed “to recognize the Palestinian people.”
"Since 1948 Israel does not recognize the Palestinian people, and since 1967 it does not recognize the Palestinian people, and those who gave them the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate do not recognize the Palestinian people, and Israel believes that they live by chance in this country," he claimed, according to Ma’an.
"In response to Israel's request to recognize the 'Jewish state' we said that we did not hear about the 'Jewish state' three years ago," he continued. "We told them that we recognize the state of Israel.”
Earlier Thursday, Nabil Shaath, a senior PLO official and a close confidant of Abbas, said the PA wants to renew peace talks.
Speaking at a conference of the far-left Meretz party in Tel Aviv, Shaath claimed, "We are interested in renewing the talks."
He clarified that "there are topics that are open for negotiations, and they are the core issues, while on the other hand there are topics that are not up for negotiations: the Palestinians' right of self-definition in the 1967 borders, and the right of unity in the Palestinian nation."