By Ryan Jones
The Palestinian Authority on Sunday dismissed a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas suggesting that the two men return to the negotiating table.
Netanyahu's letter was a response to a letter sent by Abbas to the Israeli leader last month in which Abbas insisted that since the peace process had already dragged on so long, Israel must now agree to meet all Palestinian demands before negotiations resume.
Abbas' letter concluded by demanding that Netanyahu:
- Accept the two-state solution on the 1967 borders with possible minor and mutually agreed upon land swaps of equal size and value;
- Stop all settlement activities, including in East Jerusalem;
- Release all prisoners, in particular those imprisoned prior to the end of 1994; and
- Revoke all decisions taken since 2000 which undermine agreements signed between Israel and the PLO.
While Netanyahu has already verbally agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state, freezing and even uprooting Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and setting free thousands of blood-soaked Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons are red lines that almost no Israeli is prepared to cross.
An Opportunity for Abbas
While details of Netanyahu's response were scarce, it reportedly reflected those Israeli concerns, and insisted that the Palestinians return to the negotiating table without preconditions, as the two sides had clearly not yet reached the "final status" phase as stipulated by the original "Oslo Accords." Netanyahu is said to have stressed that Israel's new unity government offers Abbas the perfect face-saving opportunity to resume talks without first making hardline demands.
Netanyahu's letter also presumably reminded Abbas of the things he left out of his own letter, namely that while the peace process has dragged on far longer than anyone hoped, that fact is primarily the result of not only continuing, but escalating Palestinian violence against Israel over the past decade.
The Oslo Accords obligated the Palestinian Authority to stop all violence against Israel, combat and dismantle any groups that engage in violence, and educate its people for peaceful coexistence. Numerous surveys show that the PA continues to violate those terms, despite Abbas' public commitment to "non-violence."
Palestinian officials were hoping no one noticed the discrepancies between their demands and claims and their behavior of the ground, and tried to paint Netanyahu and his policies as the sole obstacle to peace.
The content of [Netanyahu's] letter did not represent grounds for returning to negotiations," Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi told Reuters.
Barring any about-faces by either Israel or the Palestinians, it is assumed that Abbas' next move will be to again approach the United Nations to recognize a State of Palestine in the absence of a peace agreement with Israel. Abbas tried a similar stunt last year, only to be shot down by the UN Security Council, where the United States threatened to veto the Palestinian motion.
- Palestinians: Netanyahu letter on peace a non-starter • Reuters
- European foreign ministers slam Israel for settlement expansion, settler violence • Times of Israel
- IDF gearing up for ‘Nakba Day’ violence • Jerusalem Post
- Deal to End Hunger Strike Awaits Palestinian Prisoners’ Approval • New York Times
- Netanyahu to Abbas: Israeli unity cabinet is a new opportunity for Mideast peace • Haaretz