ROME – The Palestinians’ struggles in forging an agreement on a unity government
supported by Fatah and Hamas could create an opportunity for diplomatic talks
between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume, a senior official on
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plane to Rome suggested on
The ruling Fatah movement initialed a power sharing agreement
with Hamas in Cairo in April. But since then the two sides have sparred over
issues such as the demands of the international community that incumbent PA
Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad remain on the job and that Hamas accept the
Quartet’s demands that it renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept
PM to lobby Eastern Europe against Palestinian
PA may delay plans to ask UN for statehood in
The senior Israeli official blamed the Palestinians
for the stalemate in the diplomatic process but expressed optimism that failed
Palestinian reconciliation could give new hope. He said international pressure
on the Palestinians was a factor.
The official denied reports of an
American ultimatum to respond by next month to President Barack Obama’s plan to
start diplomatic talks with the borders issue before dealing with the fate of
Jerusalem and descendants of Palestinian refugees.
Steve Simon, who
replaced incoming American ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro as senior National
Security Council adviser on the Middle East, held a conference call with US
Jewish leaders on Friday in which he said that the Palestinians had indicated
that they would move forward with talks on the basis of Obama’s proposal, if
Israel agreed as well, and that the US was now waiting for Israel’s answer,
according to participants on the offthe- record call.
suggested that July 15, the date by which proposals must be submitted to the
United Nations ahead of the General Assembly session in September, could be a
key target date for starting diplomatic talks and preventing a vote at the GA on
establishing a Palestinian state.
But the senior official said there was
no timetable with the Americans and that Netanyahu did not receive any ultimatum
or even a hint of an ultimatum.
Netanyahu left for Rome on Sunday
accompanied by eight ministers. The ministers will sign bilateral agreements
with their Italian counterparts and hold a joint cabinet meeting as they did in
Jerusalem in February 2010.
The prime minister will meet with his Italian
counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi, who is expected to restate his opposition to a
UN vote on forming a Palestinian state. Berlusconi told PA President Mahmoud
Abbas that he opposed such a move when he visited Italy two weeks
Exhibits on Israeli accomplishments will be on show throughout Rome
this week. A poster calling for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit
is hanging outside Rome City Hall, which Netanyahu visited on
“Italy is one of the most supportive countries of Israel in
Europe,” Israeli ambassador Gideon Meir told Army Radio.
“They also have
good relations with Arab countries and the Palestinians. But they oppose
declaring a Palestinian state unilaterally and they prevent a consensus on the
matter in the European Union.”
Hilary Leila Krieger and Daniel Clinton
contributed to this report.