(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday said he would postpone a United Nations vote on unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state scheduled for September if he saw diplomatic progress with Israel was being made.
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"If progress was recorded in negotiations, September would become a meaningless deadline because our preference is a peace process," Abbas was quoted by Army Radio as saying during a meeting with J-Street officials at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Steve Krubiner, Israel and international programs director for J Street who sat in on the meeting with Abbas, said the statement came in response to a question raised by the left-leaning advocacy group.
“We asked him directly: If a credible plan were put on the table to bring you back to the negotiations and how would that effect September?” Krubiner said over the phone from Ramallah. “He said his number one preference is negotiations and the UN route is a fallback.”
Krubuner said the parameters mentioned by Abbas for restarting talks were the same as those put forward several months ago by Western countries involved in the negotiations
“A two or three months’ settlement freeze might bring him back at the table,” he said. “If I were Israel or America I would test it.”
Israel is adamantly against a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state claiming it will be detrimental to the peace process.
Meanwhile, a new deal signed by the moderate Fatah and Islamist Hamas groups two weeks ago reestablished ties between the two for the first time in years and further complicated regional diplomacy.
Israel is categorically against dealing directly with the militant Islamic group which is sworn to its destruction until it renounces violence. Netanyahu has publicly said it will sever ties with the Palestinian Authority if a government which includes Hamas is created.
Earlier this week J Street founder and president Jeremy Ben-Ami advocated a different approach than the one espoused by Netanyahu’s government saying he believed the coalition should be given a trial period until its policy towards Israel is determined.
“Jumping out to say either this is a terrible thing or good thing is in our opinion not the wisest move, and the real question is, what this new alignment really going to stand for and what is it going to do, and that we don’t know,” he told The Jerusalem Post
The US congress has also threatened to cut off aid to the PA if Hamas is part of the Palestinian government, an issue which came up during the meeting on Sunday with Abbas, Krubiner said.
“Abbas said he believed such an action would have a counter effect than intended and strengthen Hamas,” he said. “He said the new government coalition would be technocratic and would not include individuals affiliated with either party.”
The J-Street delegation which arrived in Israel this week was scheduled to meet with several other politicians in addition to Abbas, including President Shimon Peres, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, Opposition leaderTzipi Livni and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
The delegation consists of 25 board members and donors.