PA official: Settlement building not a barrier for resuming peace talks

Will the pledges lead to concrete steps toward relaunching the diplomatic peace process?

June 8, 2017 12:05
2 minute read.
Pro Hamas student

A student supporting Hamas holds a Palestinian flag in a rally in Ramallah, earlier this year. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will forgo demands on stopping Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank in order to resume peace talks under the Trump administration, according to Bloomberg on Thursday.

Mohammad Mustafa, Abbas’s senior economic adviser and former deputy prime minister, explained in an interview conducted Monday that: “We think it’s better for all of us right now to focus on giving this new administration a chance to deliver.”

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Mustafa added that Abbas plans to lay low with his condemnation of Israel at the UN and that "We have not made the settlements an up-front issue this time.”

The Palestinian official explained that impetus to resume peace talks comes from the Palestine Investment Fund failing to receive international donors, leaving many Palestinians unemployed. The Palestinian Investment Fund is an independent organization that provides financial assistance to local Palestinian entrepreneurs.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, member of the policy making Central Committee in Abbas’s Fatah party, added that the motivation for the renewal of peace talks also stems from the Palestinians' new-found trust in US President Donald Trump, after postponing to move the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last week. 
Trump-Abbas meeting in Washington. (Reuters)

Shtayyeh praised Trump's immediate involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying “With this administration, the White House is engaged and that’s a huge difference,” adding however, that he is still not optimistic.

“We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump told Abbas at the White House in early May. “We will get it done. We will be working so hard to get it done. It’s been a long time, but we will be working diligently – and I think there’s a very, very good chance. And I think you feel the same way.”

Abbas said he looked forward to working with Trump in order to “come to that deal, to that historical agreement to bring about peace,” but then laid out familiar terms that have become increasingly unpalatable for Israelis: a sovereign Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem and borders based on lines from before the 1967 Six Day War.

“We’ll start a process which hopefully will lead to peace,” Trump said in the Roosevelt Room. “Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Let’s see if we can prove them wrong.”

“I am committed to trying to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Trump said in Bethlehem in late May. “I intend to do everything I can to help achieve that goal.”

Israel and the Palestinians have engaged in peace talks over the last two decades with little success. Issues centering on borders, settlement construction, and security matters have led to repeated failed negotiations. 

Michael Wilner and Adam Rasgon contributed to this article.

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