PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, and called for the sides to resume peace negotiations in the wake of the Gaza conflict.
In the first meeting between a senior Israeli official and the PA leader since the 50-day Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, Herzog said the current situation amid the intermediary cease-fire provided a rare opportunity to forge a regional political settlement.
Abbas reiterated his position that the Israelis and Palestinians return to the negotiating table on the primary basis of determining, under a strict timeline, the borders of a future independent Palestinian state.
“The time has come for Israel to determine how it envisions the borders of the Palestinian state,” Abbas said.
Meanwhile, the Labor party leader said the core of any peace deal needed to be stable security arrangements, including Abbas taking the reins in Gaza, which Herzog said pertained to the interests of the Palestinians too.
“We consider it necessary that the PA accepts responsibility for Gaza as part of a comprehensive plan for a two-state solution,” Herzog told Abbas.
He urged the PA leader to avoid taking unilateral steps that could damage the possibility of diplomatic dialogue.
Herzog instead called on Abbas to pursue sincere negotiations based foremost on the principles of security and border definition.
Turning to the spread of extremist Islamist organizations such as Islamic State, Abbas and Herzog agreed that Israel and the PA held a common interest, found among other Arab countries, in halting the proliferation of such terrorist entities.
On Monday, Palestinian media reported that US Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had discussed the possibility of restarting peace talks, which broke down after the PA signed a unity deal with Hamas in April.
Amid renewed attempts at restarting Israeli-Palestinian dialogue in the wake of the fighting in Gaza, the government in Jerusalem has stood by its decision not to conduct peace talks with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas.
Abbas plans to present a new diplomatic initiative to Arab foreign ministers during their meeting in Cairo on September 7.
The diplomatic initiative that Abbas is slated to present to the Arab League for approval calls for a nine-month negotiation window that will eventually lead to an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank within three years.
Herzog and Abbas agreed to reconvene after the PA president’s return from Egypt.
Yasser Okbi and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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