Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a call for a return to talks with Israel Monday night, saying he still hoped to reach a final settlement despite the deep freeze in relations between the two sides.
Speaking at a Christmas dinner in Bethlehem, Abbas said a freeze in settlement construction still stood as a precondition to talks and that Israel should cancel its East Jerusalem construction plans. Israel, which has pushed forward with several plans to expand building over the pre-1967 Green Line in the capital and in the West Bank, has said it will come to the table only with no preconditions.
The two sides have been at loggerheads since high-level talks were cut off late last decade, during the administration of former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Last month, the Palestinian Authority was granted nonmember observer state status at the UN General Assembly, which the PA said it would use to leverage new final-status negotiations. Since then, tensions between the two sides have ramped up as Israel has taken punitive measures against the PA, including expanding building and withholding tax money.
Abbas has repeatedly threatened to turn to the International Criminal Court in The Hague if Israel does not release tax revenues that were to be transferred to the Palestinians and if Jerusalem continues with its plan to build homes in the controversial E1 corridor between the capital and the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim.
Abbas said that the Palestinians must adhere to international law and he called on Israel to do the same. He also said that he sees East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state and that it would always be open to all monotheists.
Despite nearly universal condemnation for the construction plans in East Jerusalem, Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that they can, and will continue to, build in the capital.