US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought ways to push the peace process
forward during a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in
Paris on Friday.
Clinton said their “candid and productive meeting”
including discussions of how to build on the recent exchange of letters between
Abbas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, which came alongside the latter’s
expansion of his governing coalition to include the centrist Kadima party, which
is eager for negotiations to resume.
Clinton will be traveling to Israel
later in the month and said she would be following up on her talks with Abbas
when she meets with leaders in Jerusalem.
“The United States remains
absolutely committed to the goal of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East
based on two states with two peoples based on peace and security,” Clinton told
reporters following their meeting.
She added that the turmoil in
surrounding countries didn’t make the search for peace less pressing.
a time of upheaval across the region, we cannot lose sight of the critical
importance of resolving this issue,” she said.
Israeli officials said
Jerusalem was looking forward to talks with Clinton. She will arrive on July 16
for a two-day visit, her first since September 2010. Clinton will be coming from
Egypt on the last leg of an eight-country journey. She will arrive just a couple
of weeks before presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is
expected in Israel.
Abbas, meanwhile, said in a Channel 2 interview over
the weekend that while negotiations with Israel were his “first, second and
third option,” he would resume attempts to gain recognition for a Palestinian
state at the United Nations if talks were not relaunched.
Abbas said that
the negotiations hinged on Israel releasing 123 Palestinian prisoners who have
been in Israeli jails since before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. He
also said Israel’s continued building in the West Bank was detrimental to a
Netanyahu has repeatedly expressed a willingness to
immediately restart negotiations with Abbas, without any conditions.
interview with Abbas was taped before his Friday meeting with
Abbas refrained during the interview from giving an exact
time-frame for a UN move. His gambit at the UN last year failed when he could not
garner enough support in the 15-member Security Council to force a US veto,
something he had hopped to do. The Palestinians, who since that time have been
accepted as a state in only one UN agency – UNESCO – are threatening this time
to take their statehood bid to the General Assembly.
The General Assembly
cannot grant membership in the UN – that can only be done upon the
recommendation of the Security Council – but it may grant “non-member state”
status, which could have significance because it could make it possible for the
Palestinians to bring cases against Israel to the International Criminal
Government officials reacted to Abbas’s interview by saying that
he was continuing the behavior he has adopted since Netanyahu returned to power
three years ago: refusing to negotiate directly with Israel and finding reasons
to “justify a position that rejects face-to-face negotiations.”
officials did not find any glimmer of hope in Abbas’s stating during the
interview that the precondition to meeting Netanyahu was a prisoner release, and
not a settlement freeze.
“The Palestinians have been pretty fluid in
their conditions for negotiations,” one official said. “Now it is the prisoner
release, but it has also been in the past a demand that Israel accept the 1967
lines as a baseline for talks, or a settlement freeze, or the government’s
acceptance of all previous negotiations where they broke off. We think this is
all covering up a fundamental fact – that for their own reasons, they don’t want
Abbas said in the television interview that there was no
chance of a third intifada breaking out even if peace talks were not resumed. He
said that the Palestinians were moving forward instead with nonviolent
Referring to the rise of Islamists in the Middle East in the
aftermath of the Arab Spring, Abbas said that if the Palestinian people were to
vote Islamists into power in the West Bank, he would accept the will of the
people. He added that if Israel were to make peace with him, it would empower
those who want peace and decrease the likelihood of Hamas success in elections.