Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is relying on former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s initiative as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu flies to Washington. White House officials refuse to comment on former President George W. Bush’s written promises to Israel.
Abbas told the Jordan news service Ammon.net that negotiations with Israel over a proposed new Arab state within Israel’s current borders must be based on Clinton’s initiative with former PA chairman Yasser Arafat and former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.
Under the initiative, Israel would surrender 97 percent of the land restored to the Jewish State in the Six-Day War in 1967, including most of post-1967 Jerusalem, with the remainder of the land to be negotiated.
Abbas also hardened his demand that Israel allow the immigration of millions of foreign Arabs claiming Israeli ancestry. He previously has stated that he knows it is not realistic for Israel to accept more than few thousand foreign Arabs. Buoyed by the Obama administration’s support for his other demands, Abbas told the Jordanian news site, “There are around six million Palestinian refugees in different countries, I do not expect all of them to return, but there is a crucial need to agree on solutions that ensure the return of a large number of them.”
As U.S. President Barack Obama prepares for the visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu later this week, his National Security Council's senior director for the Middle East declined to comment whether the Obama administration accepts former President Bush’s written promise in 2004 that heavily Jewish populated areas in Judea and Samaria would remain under Israeli control.
"I don't think … we'll have a comment on these kinds of … private discussions that we're having with the parties. We have a very good understanding with our Israeli partners about the foundations of this relationship and this effort to move toward our shared goal of comprehensive peace and two states," Dan Shapiro said, as quoted by the Washington Times.
The Bush letter to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is the basis for Israel’s demand that the city Maaleh Adumim (pictured), east of Jerusalem, and the Gush Etzion bloc, south of the capital, remain outside a future PA state. Abbas has used the Israeli demand as a lever for demanding an equal amount of Israel land that would give the PA a direct link between Gaza and Judea and Samaria.
The April 14, 2004 letter states that a final agreement on a new Arab state should reflect "new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers. It adds, “It is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."