Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that if US Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework agreement fails to give Palestinians a satisfactory answer to the core issues, he will stop negotiations with Israel and turn to international bodies for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.Speaking during a meeting with Meretz leader Zehava Gal- On, Abbas said, “The only chance that we will agree to extend the talks will be if Netanyahu declares a settlement construction freeze and the releasing of more prisoners.”The nine-month period that Kerry designated for negotiations is set to end on April 29.
Abbas’s comments came as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was set to meet with US President Barack Obama in Washington. Obama was expected to pressure Netanyahu to accept Kerry’s framework agreement. Abbas is to meet Obama at the White House on March 17.Abbas stated that Palestinians want to retain eastern Jerusalem as their capital as part of a peace deal, while Israel would retain the western side of the city, and the two capitals would be managed by a body that would coordinate between the sides.The PA president said that claims he wanted the “right of return” for five million Palestinians are “a joke.”“I do not want to destroy Israel and no refugee will return to Israel without Israel’s consent,” he stated, adding that “I expect Israel to set quotas of the numbers of refugees it will absorb each year.” On the issue of setting the border according to the pre-1967 lines with land swaps, Abbas said: “What the Israeli side is offering is not one-to-one proportional land swaps, but rather land swaps that are based on demographic development.”Gal-On pressed Netanyahu to advance the peace process and not “cave in to the extreme Right.” She said that 77 MKs would support a potential peace agreement and 76 percent of the Israeli public back a deal with the Palestinians.She attacked the government for releasing statistics Monday that showed a 123% jump in housing starts in West Bank settlements in 2013. She said that the Central Bureau of Statistics’ figures show the government’s “real priorities” and “torpedo any chance for peace.”