PM calls on Abbas to return to negotiating table

PA asks national unity coalition adopt a platform of peace; Netanyahu: I hope Abbas will use opportunity resume talks.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas 390 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas 390 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
The new national unity government offers an opportunity to rekindle the stalled peace talks, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday as he called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiation table.
“I hope that President Abbas will use this opportunity to resume the peace talks,” he said at a Knesset news conference where the wider coalition was announced.
Direct negotiations have been mostly frozen since Netanyahu took office. Talks were briefly held in September 2010, but since then there have been no face-to-face meetings.
Palestinians have insisted that Israel stop settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem. Israel has refused to cede to this request.
Abbas sent Netanyahu a letter last month outlining his conditions for direct negotiations. Netanyahu’s response has been delayed by the death of his father, Benzion, last week.
Abbas called Netanyahu during the seven-day shiva mourning period to offer his condolences. Both he and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad also sent him sympathy letters.
In a rare positive note, Abbas said that Netanyahu was his peace partner during a visit to Tunis last week.
On Tuesday, Abbas struck a more moderate note with regards to talks, but did not announce a return to the table.
He called on the government to use its newfound strength to its diplomatic platform to one that would allow direct talks to resume.
The Israeli government should seize the opportunity of Kadima’s decision to join the coalition to accelerate the peace process with the Palestinians, PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said Tuesday.
The peace talks should be on the basis of United Nations resolutions in order to achieve a just and comprehensive peace that would ensure stability and security for all peoples in the region, Abu Rudaineh said.
“This is the appropriate time for the Israeli government to reach peace with the Palestinian people,” he said.
The Palestinians hope the new Israeli coalition will be a coalition of peace and not a coalition of war, he said.
The spokesman called on the Israeli government to immediately comply with all the obligations of the peace process to pave the way for the two-state solution and “the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital.”
Israel has insisted that talks should be held without preconditions.
“The Quartet suggested a few months ago a straightforward procedure: the resumption of direct negotiations without preconditions. That has always been our position and that is our position now,” Netanyahu said. “I do not know how you advance negotiations, let alone conclude them without engaging in them. We are prepared to engage in them at any time.”
“The process is not stuck because of us, that is the truth,” he added. “It is stuck because until the Palestinians have not decided to sit and negotiate with us.”
At the Knesset news conference, Mofaz said he hoped that the government would adopt this approach to the peace process.
“I prepared a plan that speaks of borders and security arrangements first,” Mofaz said. “I believe that this is the direction that the State of Israel should negotiate with the Palestinians.”
Last month he discussed his plan in detail with The Jerusalem Post. He explained that he envisioned a two-step process, which calls for a 100 percent withdrawal from the West Bank with land swaps.
In the first phase, the Palestinians would have control of Areas A and B in the West Bank, as well as 20% of Area C, so that the land from Jenin to Hebron would be contiguous, he told the Post. It is possible to do this, he said, without evacuating settlements.
He said his plan would enable 250,000 settlers to remain in their West Bank homes. Israel would retain the settlements of Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel and Gush Etzion. The Jordan Valley, he said, could be leased for 25 years and the Hebron Jews could be allowed to stay through a special agreement.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.