Obama, Abbas shake hands 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
WASHINGTON - Jewish leaders pressed Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the issues of incitement and direct
Abbas met for dinner Wednesday evening with an array of the national
Jewish leadership under the auspices of the Center for Middle East
Peace. The meeting came after he met with President Obama at the White
House.RELATED:Abbas meets Obama in Washington
The major topic of the evening was Abbas' reluctance to advance from
proximity talks, brokered by the United States, to direct talks with
Israel. Both Obama and Netanyahu favor direct talks.
Palestinian leaders had previously said the obstacle was Israel's
refusal to advance from a partial to a total settlement freeze, but
Abbas backed away from that reasoning, and instead stuck to a
"legalistic" argument, in the word of several of those present: He
wanted direct talks, but only after proximity talks had achieved
progress on the "core issues," of borders, Jerusalem and refugees.
On the issue of incitement, Abbas accepted that there was some
incitement in official Palestinian media, according to meeting
participants. However, he expressed frustration that Israel did not
recognize his efforts to end incitement in the mosques, saying he was
the only Arab leader to centralize Friday sermons and to remove imams
who incited against Israel.
Abbas repeated his call for a trilateral commission, comprising
Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United States, that would
examine and penalize
incitement on both sides of the conflict, and expressed frustration that
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had rejected the idea.
Jewish leaders also pressed him on reaching out to Israelis to
reassure them of Palestinian intentions.
On that score, Abbas said he recognized the ancient Jewish claims to
Israel, and recognized west Jerusalem as Israel's capital, adding that
the Palestinians had an equal claim to eastern Jerusalem as their
capital. He said he had appeared on Israeli television for a 30-minute
interview, and had pressed Netanyahu to do the same on Palestinian TV;