Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu heads to Egypt on Sunday to talk with
President Hosni Mubarak about the possibility of direct negotiations with the
The two men will also discuss the issue of the Gaza
crossings, in the wake of Israel’s recent decision to lift most restrictions on
goods entering the Strip.
Fatah urges Abbas to avoid direct talks
PA not ruling out direct talks
Mubarak also plans to meet separately on Sunday
with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US special envoy George
Abbas is expected to tell Mubarak that he wants the Arab League
to make the decision on whether to head to direct talks with
Government sources told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night they
remained hopeful that direct talks would resume in the near future, despite PA
statements that it won’t enter direct talks unless Israel accepts the pre- 1967
lines as the future border of a Palestinian state and agrees to the presence of
foreign troops in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“It is our
understanding that we are moving toward direct talks,” a government source told
The Palestinians broke off direct talks in December 2008. Since
taking office 16 months ago, Netanyahu has called for the PA to negotiate with
“The Palestinians have prevented direct talks from happening for
the last year and a half,” said the source, who added that this refusal has not
Abbas under pressure to reject US demands for talks
Abbas is under pressure from Fatah and the PLO to
reject demands from the US administration to hold talks with
Hamas and several other radical Palestinian groups have also
warned Abbas against succumbing to pressure from Washington.
East envoy George Mitchell met with Abbas in Ramallah on Saturday and urged the
PA to conduct direct negotiations with Israel.
Abbas, according to one of
his aides, told the US emissary that he remained opposed to such negotiations
until the two sides first agreed on the future borders of a Palestinian state
and security-related matters.
Following the meeting in Ramallah, Mitchell
sounded more optimistic than Abbas’s top advisers regarding direct
“We recognize the difficulties and complexities involved in
trying to realize the vision of comprehensive peace,” he said. “We are heartened
by the discussions that we heard today and the past several
Mitchell said he was planning to visit several other countries in
the region for further discussions on Israeli-Palestinian peace
PLO official says Mitchell brought nothing new
Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, who attended the talks in
Ramallah, refused to respond to reporters after the meeting, in what was
interpreted as a sign of dissatisfaction with the US position.
Abed Rabbo, a top PLO official and political adviser to Abbas, said Mitchell did
not bring anything new.
“He didn’t bring us answers to questions we had
presented to Israel through Washington regarding borders and security,” Abed
Rabbo said. “We are still lacking clarity regarding a number of
He said that under the current circumstances, the PA believes
there is no reason to accept Washington’s request to move to direct
“We insist on clear answers regarding settlements and Israel’s
measures in Jerusalem, including house demolitions and construction of new
settler projects in the city.”
Muhammad Dahlan, a senior Fatah official,
said his faction has rejected Mitchell’s demand for direct negotiations. He also
said that moving from proximity talks to direct negotiations requires prior
progress on borders and security.
“Our position has been supported by the
Arab League,” Dahlan said. “In light of these developments and the
clear responses from Israel on these two issues, Fatah reiterates its
to moving to direct negotiations.”
In an interview published over the
weekend in Jordan’s Alghad
newspaper, Abbas said that Israel should
agree to the
presence of a “third party” in the Palestinian territories as a
Abbas also said that the PA has presented Israel with its
position on various core issues, particularly borders and security.
said that the borders should be on the basis of 1967, with agreement on
swap between the two sides,” he said. “What is needed from Israel is to
these ideas in principle.”