(photo credit: Associated Press)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has officially rejected an offer by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to demarcate temporary borders for a sovereign Palestinian state on more than 60 percent of the West Bank, Al-Hayat reported on Saturday, citing Palestinian sources.
According to the report, Abbas said Netanyahu's overture was aimed at jump-starting negotiations by agreeing to the creation of a Palestinian while blurring the specifications of the future state's borders. The offer, the sources told the UK-based Arab paper, was a “trap” which would “drag” Abbas into negotiations that delved deep into controversial regional issues without compromising Netanyahu's insistence on continuing Jewish construction in east Jerusalem. For that reason, the sources reportedly said, Abbas would not accept this latest Israeli offer.
The paper further reported that President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Barak had phoned Abbas to try and convince him to accept the proposal.
Abbas, however, told leaders of the Fatah movement on Saturday that he rejects the establishment of a Palestinian state in temporary borders, in an apparent response to media reports that Israel was trying to revive the proposal.
Instead, Abbas suggested that Israel and the Palestinians resume serious negotiations on the terms of full Palestinian statehood, adding that such talks should wrap up within two years.RELATED: US says no breakthrough is expected soonAnalysis: Giving ground on Arab east Jerusalem?Mitchell hopes to launch proximity talks
Israel and the Palestinians remain far apart on the framework for such talks, and US Mideast envoy George Mitchell returned to the region on Thursday for a new push to narrow the differences.
The US has proposed indirect talks in which Mitchell would shuttle between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
However, the Palestinians say they won't engage unless Israel agrees not to start new housing projects for Jews in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem and surrounding areas to the north and south of the city, claimed by the Palestinians as a capital.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected a building freeze in east Jerusalem, a stance he reiterated in an interview with Channel 2 on Thursday evening
Earlier this week, an Israeli daily reported that Netanyahu has floated the idea of a temporary state as a way of breaking the impasse.
Such a proposal is also part of the US-backed Road Map peace plan as an interim step toward full independence. The temporary state would only be established on parts of the territory the Palestinians want for their state. However, the Road Map never got off the ground and the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected provisional statehood, fearing the temporary borders would become the final ones.
"We won't accept a state with temporary borders," Abbas told the leaders.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also brushed aside the notion when asked about it Friday. "So there's a lot of ideas that have been floated around, but at the end of the day it's only the Israelis and Palestinians who can make decisions for themselves," she said.