Palestinian official: Abbas has agreed to meet with Netanyahu

Senior official says PA president ready to drop pre-conditions; US and the Prime Minister’s Office have no comment on the matter.

Netanyahu, Abbas 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
Netanyahu, Abbas 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a senior Palestinian official said Thursday.
The official claimed that Abbas has officially informed the US administration of his agreement to meet with Netanyahu. The two leaders have not met face-to-face since September 2010.
The official was quoted by the Palestinian Quds Net News Agency as saying that Abbas has dropped his previous preconditions for holding a summit with Netanyahu.
The official did not specify the nature of the preconditions, though Abbas had said in the past that he did not want a meeting with Netanyahu to be a photo-op serving Israel’s interests alone.
“The US administration played a big role in exerting pressure on Abbas to agree to a meeting with Netanyahu,” the official disclosed. “We expect the meeting to take place in Jerusalem in the next few days.”
In response, a source in Abbas’s office said it was “premature” to talk about a summit between the two.
The source acknowledged that Washington had suggested to Abbas that he meet with Netanyahu in the context of efforts to boost the peace process.
The US and the Prime Minister’s Office had no comment on the matter, although Netanyahu has in the past repeatedly called on the PA leader to meet with him, saying he would drive to Ramallah for talks with Abbas.
US Secretary of State John Kerry hinted at the possibility of a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu when he spoke last month in New York at the meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee.
Kerry explained that the peace process renewed at the end of July had two tracks, the first of which involved the conversations between Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat that have taken place in the last few months.
“But the second track is Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, and myself and President Obama. And as needed, as we think appropriate, as we need to move the process, we will be consulting among each other and working to move this process forward,” Kerry said.
News of a possible meeting comes at a time when politicians in the PA and Israel have called for the talks to end.
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi added her voice to those calling on the PA leadership to pull out of the peace talks with Israel.
“There is no benefit in the negotiations after the force of occupation [has] emptied them from their goal,” Ashrawi said in a statement.
She accused Israel of seeking to destroy the prospects for peace and the two-state solution.
Ashrawi called on the Arab and Islamic countries to “break their silence and move immediately to stop the policy of Judaizing the Aksa Mosque and crimes perpetrated by Israel under the looking eye of the world.”
Ashrawi’s remarks came in response to the Jerusalem Municipality’s decision to build 58 housing units in the city’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood, and “price-tag” assaults by extremist Jews against Palestinians. She also strongly condemned visits to the Temple Mount by “settler gangs and their rabbis.”
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat also condemned the decision to build new homes in Pisgat Ze’ev.
“Israel has an obsession to intensify its aggression against Palestine and its people while we are trying to reach a negotiated solution,” Erekat charged.
“Our position is clear and in line with international law: all Israeli settlements in Palestine are illegal. Settlement construction in occupied east Jerusalem, Ariel and Kiryat Arba is illegal and undermines the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution. If Israel is serious about peace, they must cease all settlement activities.”
Right-wing Israeli politicians in turn have called on Netanyahu to end the talks in light of the Palestinian infiltration into the Psagot settlement – in which a nine-yearold girl was lightly wounded – and the killing of two soldiers by Palestinians in Hebron and near Kalkilya. These politicians include Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud) and members of the Bayit Yehudi party, including Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel.