Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday he would send messages
to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and world leaders defining the terms of
reference and bases for resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian
In a speech before Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo,
Abbas warned that if Israel did not reply to his messages he would resume
efforts to unilaterally seek United Nations recognition of a Palestinian
Abbas conditioned the resumption of direct negotiations with
Israel on a full cessation of construction in settlements and east Jerusalem,
Israeli acceptance of the two-state solution on the basis of the pre-1967 lines
and the release of Palestinian prisoners and detainees – especially those who
were imprisoned before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
Israeli diplomatic source, referring to the low-level Israeli-Palestinian talks
held last month in Jordan, said: “Every time we start to make progress, Abbas
runs away. This also characterized him during previous rounds of negotiations.
Precisely when Israel starts to show flexibility is when he decides to blow up
The official said whenever Abbas has to make
decisions, he “flees by creating more preconditions.”
Minister’s Office, meanwhile, responded to Abbas’ speech at the Arab League by
issuing a statement saying he has “turned his back on peace.”
entering into negotiations that will lead to an end to the conflict, Abu Mazen
[Abbas] prefers to join up with the Hamas terrorist organization, the same Hamas
that is hugging Iran,” the statement read.
Abbas again hinted at the
possibility of dissolving the PA if no progress is achieved to revive the peace
“The Palestinian Authority cannot remain without authority,” he
said. “The status quo cannot remain like this.”
Abbas said he would first
wait for a response from Israel to his messages.
“If they do not respond,
we will begin our steps at the Security Council, General Assembly and other UN
institutions,” he said. “We will also demand the activation of the 1949 Geneva
Convention regarding the protection of civilians during war.”
Abbas added that he did not rule out the
possibility that under such circumstances Congress would cut off financial aid
to the PA and Israel would withhold tax revenues belonging to the
The PA president renewed his call to Israel to accept the
2002 Arab peace plan, which he described as the “most precious initiative for
the Palestinian cause in 60 years.” He told the Arab foreign ministers that
during last month’s Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jordan, the Palestinians
presented their views regarding borders and security, while Israel did not do
But Israel, he charged, was refusing to freeze settlement
construction, present maps and recognize the road map for
Referring to last week’s Qatar-brokered reconciliation accord
between Fatah and Hamas, Abbas said he would head a transitional government
tasked with preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections and
rebuilding the Gaza Strip.
He warned, however, that the elections would
be called off if Israel did not allow the vote to take place in east
“We can not hold elections without east Jerusalem,” Abbas
Earlier, Azzam Ahmed, a top aide to Abbas, said the
Palestinians would ask the Arab League to call for the convening of an
international peace conference.
“One of the proposals we will request
from the Arab Follow- Up Committee is for a call to convene an international
peace conference on the Palestinian issue,” Ahmed told AFP.
He said the
Palestinian delegation was hopeful “that the final statement of the Follow- Up
Committee would include a call for an international conference on the
However, Abbas did not mention the idea of an
international conference in his speech.
Israeli officials reacted coolly
to reports that the Palestinians would be seeking an international Middle East
peace conference, with one diplomatic source saying “there is no substitute for
According to the source, the low-level
Israeli-Palestinian talks that began last month in Jordan “were a move in the
right direction,” and should be allowed to continue.
The source said key
players in the international community – including the US, EU and UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – have all called for those talks to continue. The
last of five rounds of talks was held on January 25.
historically been very hesitant about taking part in international peace
conferences, preferring either direct talks or negotiations under US
What Abbas should be doing now, rather than looking for an
international peace conference, is give a clear indication of whether he is
interested in peace with Israel or Hamas, one official said.
added that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s visit over the weekend to Iran
and his meetings with supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should serve as a “wake-up call” for anyone who
believes Hamas is moving into the mainstream.
“Hamas is an organization
with an extremist agenda, which rejects peace and reconciliation, and in many
ways shares the radical positions of the Iranian government,” the official said.
“In fact Hamas is an Iranian proxy.”
Haniyeh was quoted by Iranian state
television as telling Ahmadinejad that Hamas would continue the “resistance,”
reject peace talks and work toward the liberation of “all Palestinian lands.” He
also referred to Iran as the Palestinians’ “strategic reserve.”
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, speaking to reporters before Sunday’s cabinet
meeting, said that anyone who saw the pictures of Haniyeh sitting next to
Ahmadinejad over the weekend, and called for Israel’s destruction, realized that
they were “birds of a feather.”
“We are talking about two people who
raise the banner of violence and jihad, and who think Israel has no right to
exist,” he said.
Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov (Israel Beitenu) went
even further, saying Abbas’ recent efforts to reconcile with Hamas meant that
“Abu Mazen equals Ahmadinejad,” something he said was “dangerous for
Another Israeli Beitenu minister, National Infrastructures
Minister Uzi Landau, stated the connection between Hamas and Iran was not
surprising, “just as the connection between Abu Mazen and [Hamas head] Khaled
Mashaal – and through him Iran – is not surprising. That is the axis of
Landau said it was “impossible to conduct negotiations with that
group of organized criminals.”