'Abbas nixes Mofaz visit due to public pressure'

Palestinians planned protests against Mofaz's arrival in Ramallah; Mofaz camp reportedly claims Netanyahu behind cancellation.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas 370 (R) (photo credit: Luis Galdamez / Reuters)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas 370 (R)
(photo credit: Luis Galdamez / Reuters)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas canceled Sunday’s scheduled Ramallah meeting with Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz, Palestinian officials said on Saturday.
It would have been the highest-level face-to-face meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders since September 2010.
“We know that Mofaz will bring nothing new,” said the PLO’s Wasl Abu Yosef, who told reporters of the postponement.
Former PA minister of state for negotiation affairs Hassan Asfour said the postponement may have been prompted by a protest among Palestinian youths who did not like the idea of Mofaz, a former Israeli defense minister and chief of staff, being a guest at Abbas’s headquarters.
According to diplomatic officials, the Abbas-Mofaz meeting was set because of a conflict between the vice premier and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the Plesner Committee’s recommendations on replacing the “Tal Law” and sharing the burden of national service.
Netanyahu and Mofaz spoke on Friday about the committee, but their meeting ended badly.
“It was wrong to torpedo the meeting. It doesn’t help Israel diplomatically, but we believe the meeting will happen soon, and we are careful not to inflame tensions with Bibi [Netanyahu] on this right now,” sources close to Mofaz said.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not comment on the matter.
An Israeli official, however, confirmed that Abbas canceled the meeting.
According to Channel 10, a source close to Netanyahu said it was “embarrassing that there are people close to Mofaz trying to claim that there is a connection between the Tal Law and the meeting with Abu Mazen [Abbas]. This is a claim that was made up after the Palestinians already announced that the meeting was canceled because of the demonstrations in Ramallah against it.”
An Israeli official said Israel’s position has consistently been that it is ready to hold talks with the Palestinians without preconditions.
According to the official, such talks could take place at any place, at any time, at whatever level they [the Palestinians] are comfortable with, either a low-level working meeting or one between Netanyahu and Abbas.
“We would ask the Palestinians how they expect to move forward unless they are willing to talk,” the official said.
Cancelation of the meeting followed Friday’s move by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to register the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem under “Palestine.”
According to AFP, the PLO called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Israel’s continued settlement activity.
Reuters contributed to this report.