Abbas denies considering interim peace agreement

PA official says Abbas's position remains unchanged and that he continues to stick to Palestinian demands and principles.

Abbas and Netanyahu 2010 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Abbas and Netanyahu 2010 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With the US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiations entering their fourth month, Israeli officials said Tuesday that all sides were realistic enough to understand that if a full deal is not possible, an “all or nothing” situation needed to be avoided.
The officials were responding to an Israel Radio report Tuesday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was “softening his resistance” to an interim agreement.
The Israeli officials said they could not confirm the report, but on Tuesday the PA denied the claims.
A PA official in Ramallah said that Abbas’s position remains unchanged, and that he continues to stick to Palestinian demands and principles.
The official said that the radio report was “baseless.”
PLO secretary-general Yasser Abed Rabbo said that there would be no solution or peace without the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital on the pre-1967 lines.
“The Palestinian leadership rejects any interim agreements,” Abed Rabbo said.
“We also reject the idea of establishing a Palestinian state with temporary borders.”
He described the Israeli position presented at the peace talks as “the worst in 20 years.”
Abed Rabbo accused Israel of seeking to gain time in order to expand settlements and create new facts on the ground that would destroy the negotiations.
The sides have agreed to a nine-month deadline to the current round of talks, meaning that if all goes according to schedule, a deal should be hammered out by May. Representatives for the two sides reportedly met in Jerusalem on Tuesday for the 14th time.
PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki said the Palestinians remain committed to the nine-month timetable of the peace talks “in spite of Israeli obstacles.”
Malki reaffirmed the Palestinian demand for a two-state solution based on the pre- 1967 lines “where Palestine and Israel would live next to each other in security and peace.”
PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yusef said that the peace talks have thus far failed to produce any result. He said the PA leadership was considering declaring the failure of the negotiations.
“All Israel wants from these talks is to win time in order to pass its aggressive policy against our people and deceive the international public opinion into thinking that it wants peace,” he added. “The Palestinians won’t be able to continue with these failed talks. All indications show that the talks are headed toward failure.”
Abu Yusef said that the PA was considering a number of options should the talks fail, including renewing efforts to seek membership in international agencies in order to file charges against Israeli leaders for their “crimes” against the Palestinians and Islamic and Christian holy sites.
Although the talks are being held in secret, the sparse information that has emerged so far does little to indicate that the ambitious goal of a deal by April will be realized, and instead paints a picture of wide gaps between the two sides.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly in the past that his goal is for a comprehensive, final-status deal, “if the Palestinians are willing.”
Barring that, however, he has said that if they are willing for a partial deal, he would be willing to go for that as well.
Abbas has thus far categorically rejected an interim agreement, insisting on a final-status deal that would include arrangements on the contentious issues of Jerusalem and the Palestinian right of return.
In his address to the UN in September, he emphatically rejecting the idea of an interim agreement: “We reaffirm that we refuse to enter into a vortex of a new interim agreement that becomes eternalized, or to enter into transitional arrangements that will become a fixed rule rather than an urgent exception,” he said at the time.
“Our objective is to achieve a permanent and comprehensive agreement and a peace treaty between the states of Palestine and Israel that resolves all outstanding issues and answers all questions, which allows us to officially declare an end of conflict and claims,” he stated.
According to the Israel Radio report, after three months of negotiations Abbas has toned down his opposition to an interim deal and despite his public pronouncements is no longer “rejecting out of hand” the possibility of such an agreement.
Abbas was not the only one to reject the idea of an interim agreement.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, in a speech in September in New York to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee which raises money for the Palestinian Authority, said the US was not seeking an interim agreement.
Kerry said one lesson he learned from previous stabs at Israel-Palestinian negotiations was that “if you leave things out there, hanging out there unresolved, people who don’t want things to happen can make them not happen. And so we have to try to find a way to get a resolution of the fundamental choices here.”
The Palestinians have historically been reticent to talk about interim agreements, saying that nothing is more permanent than intermediate arrangements, and that they would fall into a trap by agreeing to any such arrangements.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, heading the talks with the Palestinians, said in a Jerusalem Post interview earlier this month that she was not seeking an interim agreement. She dismissed charges by Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) that she was working on an interim deal that would create a Palestinian state in temporary borders.
Livni told the Post, “My goal is an agreement that will end the conflict and all claims for both sides. I have never used the term ‘interim agreement.’” Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, however, has in the past championed the idea of long-term interim agreements, saying just prior to US President Barack Obama’s visit in March that in the current Middle East environment, a comprehensive Middle East peace was impossible, and that the negotiations with the Palestinians should be over a “longterm interim agreement.”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.