Unity gov't watered down response to PA letter

Abbas says Israeli response unsatisfactory, threatens going to the United Nations again.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R) (photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R)
(photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
The letter that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent in response to PA President Mahmoud Abbas last month regarding conditions for renewing the peace talks was a milder version of the original response drawn up,The Jerusalem Post has learned.
In response to Abbas’s indictment of Israeli actions over the last 20 years, Jerusalem drew up a response in kind which was not considered “friendly.” But once the unity government with Kadima was established, the decision was made not to get into polemics with the PA, but rather to water down the response and essentially tell the Palestinians that now that there was a broad government, there was a chance to start anew with negotiations, and that this opportunity should not be missed.
The Israeli letter that was sent, the Post has learned, was one-and-a-half pages long and short on details.
Abbas’s letter outlined his conditions for returning to the negotiating table, demanding Israeli recognition of the pre- 1967 lines as the basis for future peace talks, a full cessation of construction in the settlements and east Jerusalem and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
PA officials have expressed disappointment with Netanyahu’s response, which the prime minister’s envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, delivered to Abbas two weeks ago.
They called the response “vague” and said it did not include “clear answers” to Abbas’s letter.
Abbas, meanwhile, met with US Consul- General Daniel Rubinstein and discussed with him the latest developments surrounding efforts to resume the stalled peace talks.
Abbas, according to one of his aides, told the US diplomat that he was disappointed with Netanyahu’s reply.
The PA prime minister renewed his threat on Thursday to unilaterally seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state in response to Israel’s refusal to accept his conditions for resuming talks.
His threat was made during an interview published Thursday with the Lebanese daily An-Nahhar.
Abbas also told the paper that the exchange of letters between him and Netanyahu has reached a “deadlock.”
Abbas said that he was expecting the Americans to come forward with “new ideas” to revive the peace process.
He said that any idea should include a freeze of settlement construction and recognition of the pre-1967 lines “with some land swaps.” Otherwise, Abbas cautioned, “we will go to the UN to extract a seat for Palestine as a non-member state.”
Abbas also reiterated his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, saying the PLO, by signing the Oslo Accords, had recognized Israel.
“We won’t agree to recognize something called the Jewish state,” Abbas stressed. “Why wasn’t this issue raised when Israel negotiated with Jordan and Egypt?” He added that the new coalition in Israel made Netanyahu’s government one of the most powerful in the history of Israel.
“Because it’s a strong government, it should be able to solve the problem with us,” Abbas said. “But the question is not whether it is capable of doing so, but whether it has a desire,” the PA president pointed out.