Abbas snubs Netanyahu, talks to Peres

Abbas may be snubbing PM

While Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continues to refuse to sit down and talk with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he is in telephone contact with President Shimon Peres, who even recently tried to talk him out of resigning. Peres, in a barely noticed interview in the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun on Thursday, said he hoped that Abbas would run in the next PA election, and that his advice to the PA president was that "winners don't quit, and quitters don't win." Asked whether he had good relations with Abbas, Peres said, "Oh yes. He told me that in 50 years he did a lot for the Palestinians and had so many disappointments, and he's tired... "So I told him you have all the reasons to be disappointed, but you don't have one right - and that is to leave your people. And I told him [you have tried for] 50 years, so maybe the 51st one will give you all the focus." A spokeswoman for Peres acknowledged on Sunday that the president had spoken on a number of occasions with Abbas since Netanyahu took office in March. She said, however, that Peres and Abbas had not met in person since that time, and that she did not know the last time they spoke by phone. There was constant contact between the two men's bureaus, she said. A spokesman for Netanyahu said that Peres was very much in the diplomatic "loop," and that there was good coordination between Peres and Netanyahu. According to the official, the prime minister has great respect for Peres, and they meet regularly. The official said that Netanyahu sees Peres as a "national asset" and is "of course using his skills, connections and knowledge. He is always praising the president." The official could not confirm, however, that Netanyahu was using Peres as a conduit to Abbas. Also on Sunday, Abbas met in Sharm e-Sheikh with Gen. Omar Suleiman, director of Egypt's General Intelligence Service, and discussed with him the prospects of resuming peace talks with Israel and efforts to reconcile Fatah and Hamas. Abbas arrived in Egypt from Jordan, where he was believed to have held a secret meeting with an unidentified important personality. Some Palestinians claimed that Abbas met with a senior Israeli official, while others said he met with Damascus-based Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, who is currently visiting Saudi Arabia. Yasser Abed Rabbo, a PLO leader and a close adviser to Abbas, announced that the PA president left Ramallah over the weekend for "an important political meeting," but did not elaborate. Abbas was scheduled to attend a rally in Ramallah on Saturday marking the 45th anniversary of the founding of the PLO. However, he apologized at the last minute and asked Abed Rabbo to represent him at the gathering. Abed Rabbo told the crowd that Abbas "had to leave the Palestinian territories unexpectedly for an important political meeting tomorrow [Sunday]." Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, was not available for comment because he was accompanying the president on the current tour, which was slated to take the PA president to Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey, in addition to Jordan and Egypt. Also accompanying Abbas are chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat and Majdi al-Khaldi, a diplomatic adviser to the PA president. On Monday, Abbas is expected to hold talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the possibility of resuming the peace talks with Israel. Mubarak will brief Abbas on the outcome of his talks with Netanyahu last week, a PA official said. Asked whether Abbas had agreed to attend a tripartite summit with Netanyahu and Mubarak in the coming weeks, the official said it was "premature" to talk about such meetings. The official added that he still didn't know when and if the peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians would be relaunched. Over the weekend, a top PA official in Ramallah talked about "encouraging signs" from Israel that could pave the way for the resumption of the peace talks as early as next month. The official noted that Abbas was under immense pressure from the US and the Egyptians and Saudis to return to the negotiating table with Israel. Abbas, in an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper on Sunday, said that the Netanyahu government "has not presented anything positive so far." Abbas added that all that the Netanyahu government was doing was "negative" and what it was doing in eastern Jerusalem was "unacceptable." Abbas claimed that the PA had "verified information" that Hamas was planning attacks in the West Bank. "They are pushing some people to carry out violent acts in the West Bank," he said. "But we won't allow anyone to sabotage our internal security."