The Palestinian Authority said on Tuesday that it wouldn’t agree to
direct negotiations with Israel as long as the proximity talks, which
began last month, were not achieving any progress.
The announcement was made on the eve of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s
visit to Washington, where he is scheduled to hold talks with US
President Barack Obama on the status of the Middle East peace process
and the latest developments in the region.
may resume armed struggle
long road to proximity talks
plans to visit Gaza
Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a senior aid to Abbas, said that the Palestinians had
recently told US Middle East envoy George Mitchell that Israel’s
request to launch direct negotiations was “unacceptable.” The Obama
administration, however, is expected to make moving to direct talks a
central issue in Abbas’s White House visit.
He is also likely to be asked about the issue when he appears at two
Washington think tanks during his visit, including one that will host a
dinner with Jewish leaders.
“They’re going to be pushing to move to direct talks,” said US Institute
of Peace expert Scott Lasensky of White House officials.
He argued that the recent controversy over Israel’s deadly raid on a
ship trying to break the Gaza embargo would add urgency to moving
forward with negotiations, as the Gaza policy was sputtering and
passions on all sides had intensified.
“This will end up accelerating the discussions on negotiations,” he
predicted. “It sets a more rigid clock to get a deal.”
Abbas op-ed claims Netanyahu not ready for
Abbas himself, in an opinion piece published Tuesday in the Washington
newspaper The Hill, wrote,
“Despite the harsh realities imposed upon us, the Palestinian side
intends to negotiate in good faith in order to end the state of conflict
that has plagued our region for so long.”
He also stressed, “This round of negotiations provides an 11th-hour
opportunity to achieve a permanent and lasting peace based on the
two-state solution. For the opportunity not to be lost, courage and bold
leadership are required.”
But when it came to how those negotiations would be furthered at this
point, Abdel Rahim said that the Palestinians preferred to wait and see
if the proximity talks achieved any agreement on the issues of borders
and security during the four-month period allocated for the talks before
deciding on their next move.
He claimed that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was not really
interested in moving the peace process forward. On the contrary, he
continued, “Netanyahu wants to destroy the peace process by ignoring the
Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet’s road map plan.”
Abdel Rahim said that the Palestinians didn’t rule out the possibility
that forces belonging to a third party would be deployed in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip on a temporary basis.
The Abbas aide said that the PA was very keen on ending its dispute with
Hamas. However, he blamed the Islamist movement’s “intransigence” for
the failure of mediation efforts to solve the crisis.
Abbas’s visit to Washington comes as he continues to face immense
pressure to achieve “reconciliation” with Hamas.
Parties pressuring Abbas to cooperate with Hamas
Earlier this week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged
Abbas during a meeting in Istanbul to patch up his differences with
Hamas. Erdogan also offered to act as a mediator between the two
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who is expected to visit the
Gaza Strip shortly for the first time, has also offered his good
Last weekend, Abbas met in Jordan with Jamal Khudari, an independent
Palestinian legislator from the Gaza Strip with close ties to Hamas, and
discussed with him ways of solving the crisis, Palestinian sources
revealed. They said that Abbas had relayed a message to Hamas through
Khudari to the effect that he was deeply interested in ending the power
struggle that has split the West Bank from the Gaza Strip.
Azzam al-Ahmed, a Fatah official closely associated with Abbas,
confirmed that the PA had been holding direct talks with Hamas in recent
He said that he personally was in contact with Hamas leaders Mahmoud
Zahar in the Gaza Strip and Nasser Eddin Shaer and Samir Abu Aisheh in
the West Bank.
Ahmed said he had told the Hamas leaders that aid ships wouldn’t end the
blockade on the Gaza Strip.
“This is unrealistic, and it won’t happen,” the Fatah official said.
“Hamas must know that the ships won’t lift the siege. Only national
reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas will end the siege.”
argued that working out a formula where the PA would retake control of
the Gaza border, as was the arrangement before Hamas routed the forces
assigned this duty as part of its takeover of the coastal strip,
provided an opportunity for resolving the quandary over policy there.
“Getting the PA at the crossings is the first step to changing the
regime in Gaza,” he assessed.
He said that with the Gaza flotilla confrontation dominating the
headlines, at this point the US would send the message in Wednesday’s
meeting that Abbas should bring down the temperature: “The
administration would like him to calm the situation.”
Looking ahead of Wednesday’s agenda, fellow US Institute of Peace expert
Lucy Kurtzer- Ellenbogen noted, “One of Abbas’s challenges here is
trying to get back some of the spotlight and [look] in control.”