Netanyahu, Fayyad to meet in Jerusalem

Low expectations as Palestinian PM is expected to hand over letter; Abbas reiterates he has no intention of dissolving the PA.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Jerusalem on Tuesday for the highest-level meeting between the two sides in nearly 20 months, and the first ever meeting between the two men.
Fayyad, who will be leading a delegation that will include chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, is expected to deliver a letter to Netanyahu calling for negotiations as long as Israel stops all settlement construction, accepts the June 5, 1967 lines as the basis of a future agreement and releases Palestinian prisoners held before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
Netanyahu has long rejected these preconditions for negotiations.
Within days of the delivery of this letter, Netanyahu’s chief negotiator Yitzchak Molcho is expected to meet PA President Mahmoud Abbas and present him with Israel’s response.
Israeli officials on Monday played down Tuesday’s meeting, even though it is the highest-level meeting since September 2010, and said that no one believes that it will lead to any kind of diplomatic breakthrough. One official said that Abbas is dispatching Fayyad to the meeting, instead of going himself, because he still refuses to negotiate with Netanyahu. Abbas broke off the talks in September 2010 just a few weeks after they began because of an Israeli refusal to extend a 10-month settlement construction moratorium after it lapsed.
The two sides last met in Jordan at the end of January, culminating a month of lower-level discussions that went nowhere.
No joint press opportunity is expected following Tuesday’s meeting, and neither the time nor location of the meeting in Jerusalem has been preannounced.
Amid rumors that Abbas might threaten to dissolve the PA if Israel did not accept his preconditions for talks, he reiterated Sunday that dismantling the PA was not an option. He also dismissed calls for halting security coordination between the PA and Israel.
Abbas, who was speaking to Palestinian journalists accompanying him on a visit to Thailand and Japan, said that “while there are many reasons why the Palestinian Authority was being weakened, dissolving it is not an option.”
Abbas dismissed as “cheap bidding” demands by Hamas and some Palestinian groups to halt security coordination between the PA and Israel.
“When we have security, this is in our interest,” Abbas said.
“Security coordination is not for one side only, but also for Palestinian territories. We are keen on security coordination because we want security for Palestinians.”
The PA president accused Israel of making the two-state solution impossible by pursuing construction in the settlements.
“But as far as we are concerned, the two-state solution remains the first and final option. Settlements are illegal and they will remain illegal.”
Abbas blamed the Arab countries for the severe financial crisis facing the PA. He noted that the Arabs have yet to fulfill their financial promises to support the Palestinians.
His comments about security coordination with Israel drew sharp criticism from Hamas, whose spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, accused the PA of providing Israel with security services for free.
“Continued security coordination poses a grave threat to the Palestinian cause and the interests of the Palestinians,” Abu Zuhri charged, urging Abbas to halt the coordination with Israel.
Meanwhile, Fayyad said Monday that the Jordan Valley was an integral part of the Palestinian territories.
“The Jordan Valley is not for rent or trade,” Fayyad declared during a ceremony inaugurating a water dam in the Jericho area. “There will be no Palestinian state without the Jordan Valley,” Fayyad emphasized. “The same as there will be no state without the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem as its capital.”
Netanyahu has said repeatedly that there will be no accord without an Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley, and that the revolutions throughout the Arab world only strengthen the need for there to be such a presence along the Jordan River.
In a related development, the United States will continue to oppose Palestinian attempts to gain statehood recognition at the UN, and if necessary will use its veto to that end, US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said Monday.
Speaking at the Netanya Academic College, Shapiro said that there were no shortcuts to peace in the Middle East, and that the Palestinians must return to direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions, on the basis of what was outlined by US President Barack Obama. In a May 2011 speech, Obama said a future “nonmilitarized” Palestinian state should “be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.