Just days after meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington, US
President Barack Obama on Friday phoned PA President Mahmoud Abbas and urged him
to change his mind about holding direct talks with Israel, according to a
Palestinian official in Ramallah.
The Palestinian Authority has refused
to begin direct talks with Israel unless progress is first achieved on two major
core issues during the current proximity talks: security and borders. According
to the official, however, the US administration is now pressing the PA to move
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“We’re under pressure to agree to direct
negotiations with Israel,” the official said.
“Such a move requires the
approval of the Arab League.”
The PA leadership has asked Arab League
foreign ministers to convene soon to discuss the US demand, the official
“If the Arab League says it’s okay, we will go
Getting the Arab League to agree is expected to be among the
topics discussed on Tuesday, when Netanyahu travels to Egypt for a meeting with
President Hosni Mubarak.
In addition, Israeli officials said Netanyahu
will brief Mubarak about his talks with Obama in Washington, about the
re-starting of direct negotiations with the Palestinians, and about the changes
in Israel’s policy regarding the blockade of Gaza.
The official said the sense in Jerusalem was that direct talks were “very
close,” but he refused to give a timetable.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a
spokesman for Abbas, said that Obama had promised during the phone conversation
that he would make every effort to establish a Palestinian state that would
exist in peace and security alongside Israel.
Abu Rudaineh said Obama
also briefed the PA president on the outcome of his talks with Netanyahu in
Washington last week, and informed Abbas that US special Middle East envoy
George Mitchell would return to the region next week.
Yasser Abed Rabbo,
a senior PLO official closely associated with Abbas, said that the Palestinians
would not enter the direct talks “unless we know where they would lead.” He said
that the Palestinians want to know which issues would be discussed during the
proposed direct talks. The PA also wants a clear timetable for the negotiations,
“We’re not going to go to negotiations that will last for 10
years,” Abed Rabbo said.
“We’re still waiting for clear answers from the
Americans and Israelis regarding the agenda and timetable of the direct
Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said that it would be possible to
move to direct talks once Israel accepted the two-state solution on the
the June 4, 1967, lines. He did not rule out a land swap between the two
Both Erekat and Abed Rabbo said that the Palestinians would not
agree to direct talks unless Israel halted all settlement
According to a statement on the Obama- Abbas conversation
put out by the White House, the two men discussed ways “to advance to
talks in the near time.” The statement also said that the US president
Abbas’s leadership and “his commitment to peace.”
They spoke about the
“positive momentum” of improvements on the ground in Gaza and in the
with Obama praising the “restraint shown by both sides in recent months
progress in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks.”
Leila Krieger contributed to this report from Washington.