|Photo by: REUTERS/Mohamad Dabbouss|
Abbas offers 6-month talks with settlement freeze
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH AND TOVAH LAZAROFF
PA president says talks should resume from where Olmert left them; ministers pledge to give fiscally shaky PA $100m.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged the Arab League on Sunday
not to withdraw its 2002 peace initiative as he called instead for renewed
negotiations with Israel for six months.
He told the League in Doha he
would demand that Israel freeze West Bank settlement construction and Jewish
building in east Jerusalem during that time.
Abbas’s comments came in
response to statements by Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasem al-Thani, who
called on the Arabs to reconsider their 2002 peace initiative.
offer marks the first time that he has placed a time-frame on his consistent call
for Israel to halt Jewish building over the pre-1967 line since Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu took office in March 2009. They come on the heels of an
Israeli announcement that it plans to build thousands of new settler homes,
including the development of E1 in the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.
has insisted that direct talks with the Palestinians should be held without
An official reiterated that stance on Sunday in response
to Abbas’s words. By placing conditions on talks, the official said, the
Palestinian leader is simply looking for excuses not to make peace.
issued new conditions for renewed negotiations with Israel at the Doha meeting
in Qatar, less than two weeks after the UN General Assembly upgraded the
Palestinian status to that of non-member observer state.
should start from the point where they ended during the era of former prime
minister Ehud Olmert in 2008, Abbas said.
The negotiations would lead to
agreement on the core issues and an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines,
Abbas told the Arab League.
Abbas and Netanyahu are sharply divided on
the issue of the pre-1967 lines, with Israel insisting that any agreement must modify that
line to accommodate the settlement blocs. Olmert in contrast had said that a
final-status agreement would be based on the pre-1967 line with land
An Israeli official noted that settlement construction had
continued while Abbas and Olmert negotiated and urged the Palestinian leader to
offer Netanyahu the same conditions.
The official also noted that
Netanyahu was the only prime minister to have imposed a 10-month moratorium on
new housing starts in West Bank settlements.
But the Palestinians, he
said, were not satisfied with that gesture which lasted from November 2009 until
On Sunday, Abbas told the Arab League that only a full
six-month settlement freeze, including Jewish building in east Jerusalem, could
He told the delegates, “We want to discuss with
you a mechanism that would lead to an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian
and Arab territories, including Jerusalem, the release of Palestinian prisoners
from Israeli jails and halting settlement construction.”
happens, there could be feasible negotiations. Also, we could return to
the point where we stopped during the era of Ehud Olmert’s government, when we
put all the final-status issues on the table. We reached many understandings on
over these issues,” Abbas added.
Abbas said that the two sides reached
understandings on the borders, Jerusalem and the refugees.
The PA will
not agree to return to the negotiations from point zero, he
“Netanyahu wants us to eliminate the issue of refugees,” Abbas
added. “We won’t accept this. We also don’t accept the presence of the Israeli
army in the Jordan Valley.”
Abbas also called for “keeping the 
Arab Peace Initiative on the table." He rejected demands by some Arab countries
to abandon the initiative, saying it was the only Arab peace plan since 1948
that says that Arabs wants a real peace.
“This is a very important
initiative,” he said. “If we remove it, the alternative would be war, or no
peace and no war. Are we ready for war? No, we are not ready for
But Thani told the Arab ministers they should reconsider the Arab
“We said from the outset that the Arab Peace Initiative
won’t last forever. We don’t seek peace at any price. For us, peace does not
mean capitulation,” Thani said.
Abbas also cautioned that the PA was on
the verge of collapse despite the UN vote in favor of upgrading the
Palestinians’ status. He called on the Arab ministers to provide financial
The Arab League ministers decided to provide the PA with $100
million per month in light of Israel’s decision to withhold tax revenues
belonging to the Palestinians against their debt to the Israel Electric