Fayyad fails to show up to meeting with Netanyahu

Sources say Fayyad didn’t want to meet on ‘Prisoner Day’; PM promises response to PA letter in two weeks.

Netanyahu greets Palestinian delegation 370 (photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Netanyahu greets Palestinian delegation 370
(photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
A much-touted high-level meeting between Israelis and Palestinians fizzled into a theatrical exchange of letters, when Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad failed to show up to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at his Jerusalem home on Tuesday evening.
It would have been the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since Netanyahu took office. Netanyahu last spoke in person with a high-level Palestinian leader when he met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in September 2010.
The peace process has been largely frozen since then, with the exception of some low-level talks that occurred in Jordan in January.
Israel was alerted to Fayyad’s planned absence prior to the meeting, but decided to move forward anyway.
On Tuesday evening, Netanyahu hosted chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat and the head of Palestinian intelligence Gen. Majad Faraj in his Jerusalem home for an hour-and- a-half. Netanyahu’s personal envoy, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, was also present.
They shook hands for the camera and the atmosphere among them was cordial. The two men delivered a letter to Netanyahu from Abbas, some contents of which had already been leaked to the media in the days prior to its arrival.
Abbas’s letter demanded a halt to West Bank settlement construction and Jewish building in east Jerusalem, and deplored Israel’s lack of commitment to the peace process, officials said.
Netanyahu and his office are now examining the letter. A preliminary reading, however, indicated that the information falls along known lines and that little new information was presented.
Netanyahu promised the Palestinian delegation that he would send envoys with a written response in two weeks.
At the end of the meeting, his office said, “Israel and the Palestinian Authority are committed to achieving peace. Both sides hope that this exchange of letters will help find a way to advance peace.”
Sources in Ramallah said that Fayyad decided to pull out of the delegation because the meeting was taking place on the same day that the Palestinians marked “Prisoner Day.”
The source said that Fayyad thought it would be inappropriate for him to meet with Netanyahu on the same day that hundreds of Palestinian prisoners went on a hunger strike in Israeli prisons.
Hamas and other Palestinian groups had criticized the planned meeting, saying it was an “insult” to the prisoners and their families.
PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo, who was supposed to join the delegation, also decided to stay away in the last minute, apparently for the same reason.
Earlier, an Israeli official said Netanyahu would reiterate his call for talks to resume without any preconditions and for a meeting with Abbas.
During a visit to Cyprus, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that Abbas was not interested in reaching a peace agreement with Israel. The Palestinians, he said, spend time blaming Israel rather than working to solve their own internal problems.
Reuters contributed to this report.