Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is likely to announce his
agreement to enter direct talks with Israel within 48 hours, PA officials said
over the weekend.
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The Abbas announcement on the resumption of direct
negotiations with Israel, which broke off in December 2008, comes in response to
the United States’ demand that the two sides sit down face to face, officials
“The heavy pressure that the Americans put on us is unprecedented,”
said one official in Ramallah.
“The president has no choice but to
succumb,” the official added.
The official said that the pressure was
coming not only from the Americans, but also from the Europeans and some Arab
As a result, there is speculation among some PA officials that
Abbas could drop his demand that Israel halt all settlement construction as a
precondition to direct talks.
Instead, according to some PA officials,
Abbas could come to the table on the basis of a Quartet demand that Israel must
freeze settlement construction, even if Israel has yet to comply. The PA would
insist, however, on the extension of the 10-month moratorium on new settlement
construction, which expires on September 26.
This speculation by PA
officials comes as the Quartet is on the verge of issuing a statement, which it
hopes will be used as the basis for these direct talks.
a spokeswoman for EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton, said Friday that
direct negotiations should lead to a two-state solution.
This should be
implemented within the 24-month timeframe set by the Quartet.
of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable State of
Palestine would live side by side in peace and security.
PA has proposed to the US that talks with Israel move forward on the basis of a
March 19 statement by the Quartet.
David Hale, a deputy to US special
envoy George Mitchell, is scheduled to relay to the PA leadership in Ramallah
the US Administration’s response to the latest proposal presented by the
Palestinians, the officials told The Jerusalem Post.
The proposal, which
Abbas presented to Mitchell last week, calls for launching the direct
negotiations on the basis of the Quartet’s March, 2010 statement that envisages
a complete cessation of settlement construction and the establishment of a
“viable and democratic” Palestinian state.
“We are waiting for a US and
European response to this proposal,” said Azzam al-Ahmed, a member of the Fatah
Central Committee and a close confidant of Abbas.
“The Americans told us
that they want to consult with the Europeans about the proposal,” Ahmed said,
adding that the PA leadership would announce its final position on the direct
talks only after receiving a reply to its proposal.
He predicted that the
PA’s stance would be announced by Monday.
The Fatah official said that
Abbas had asked the US Administration to wait a few days for his reply to enable
him to consult with Arab leaders.
Abbas has in the past few days
discussed the issue of the direct talks with Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Jordan’s
King Abdullah and Qatar’s Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
Ahmed claimed that the Arab leaders were now demanding the Americans be actively
involved in the talks.
On Thursday, Acting Deputy Department Spokesman
Mark C. Toner said in Washington that he believed progress had been made toward
such talks when US special envoy Senator George Mitchell visited Israel and the
Palestinian territories last week.
“Obviously, we’re working through the
details, but we have confidence that we’re moving in the right direction and
ultimately will be successful,” said Toner.
US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton on Thursday followed Mitchell’s efforts by working the phones in hopes
of persuading Israel and the Palestinians to come to the table.
Department said Friday that Clinton had called Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
and the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt to discuss remaining obstacles to
getting the talks under way.
Kocijancic said the issue was also a high
priority for Ashton, who is in “regular touch with the leaders of the region,
quartet envoy Blair and, in particular, with Senator Mitchell.”
Israeli official told the Post that Netanyahu has wanted to talk face-toface
with Abbas for the last 18 months without pre-conditions.
“We are ready
to start direct talks if [Abbas] is ready to step up to the plate,” said the
official, adding, “It is about time.” The official cautioned that this was not
the first time the two parties had appeared to be on the verge of
“I have heard this before,” the official said.
the Prime Minister’s Office denied a report in the Londonbased Al-Hayat
newspaper claiming that Netanyahu was working on a plan to present to Abbas that
called for the withdrawal of 50,000 West Bank settlers, out of the 300,000 who
live there.AP contributed to this report.