Abbas says US envoy didn’t make any offers, just listened
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Abbas says US envoy didn’t make any offers, just listened

PA leader dispels rumors that Jason Greenblatt tried to renew a settlement construction freeze; Herzog presents Trump's emissary with 'bold regional process'

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on March 14, 2017. (Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on March 14, 2017. (Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denied reports that US President Donald Trump’s special envoy for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, presented any offers to renew negotiations with Israel during a meeting on Tuesday in Ramallah, according to an interview published Thursday.

In the hours before Greenblatt’s meeting with Abbas, there were reports, including from I24news and the United Arab Emirates newspaper al-Khaleej, that the US envoy had offered Abbas a deal: in return for coming back to the negotiating table, the Israelis would agree not to announce any new settlement construction, and the US would give additional economic incentives to the Palestinians.

But in a long interview with the Qatari news site al-Watan published on Thursday, Abbas denied Greenblatt had come to Ramallah with anything but a willingness to listen.

“Greenblatt did not propose any ideas or carry any offers. Rather, he came just to listen to what’s on our minds in order to later inform President Trump,” Abbas said.

Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Monday, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)
Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt (left) meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Monday, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

“So when we meet the US president,” Abbas added, “there will be answers to what he has heard from us, enough to make a clear picture.”

“I think Trump will start with us from the beginning; he has not concealed this,” Abbas said.

The PA leader noted in the al-Watan interview that his meeting with Greenblatt lasted 90 minutes, while a meeting between the US envoy and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday was five hours long.

During his meeting with Greenblatt on Tuesday, Abbas said he believed a “historic” peace deal was possible with Trump in office. Last week, Trump held his first phone conversation with Abbas, inviting him to visit the White House “soon.”

Abbas said no date had been set for his visit to Washington.

Greenblatt meets settler leadership, opposition leader

On Thursday Greenblatt met with Israeli settlers leaders as well as with opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog.

The US envoy met with a delegation from the settler umbrella group the Yesha Council, led by Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi.

A statement from the Yesha Council described the meeting as “fruitful and positive,” and added that the council “looks forward to continuing this important dialogue.”

Herzog said his meeting with Greenblatt showed that the US president was “committed” to reaching a peace deal.

Opposition chairman Isaac Herzog (R) meets with US special envoy for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt on March 16, 2017. (Rafi Ben Hinon)
Opposition chairman Isaac Herzog (R) meets with US special envoy for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt on March 16, 2017. (Rafi Ben Hinon)

“I am impressed by the deep commitment of the President, as expressed by his envoy in our meeting, towards reaching peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and the extent of Mr Greenblatt’s contacts with all parties, including his direct interaction with citizens on both sides,” Herzog wrote on Facebook.

“I described to Mr. Greenblatt my efforts in the last 12 months to initiate a bold regional process, and outlined to him my amended plan on how to move forward,” Herzog added.

Later on Thursday Greenblatt is slated to meet with Netanyahu for a second time on this tour.

Netanyahu said the upcoming meeting would be about reaching “an agreed-upon policy on construction in the settlements.”

During this trip the US envoy has also met with President Reuven Rivlin and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai.

On Wednesday he made an unannounced trip to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II in his palace in Amman.

Greenblatt has also met Palestinian youth leaders in the Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah “to understand their daily experiences,” as he wrote on his Twitter account. He also met with senior PA security officials and visited recruits at a Jericho training center to review “our joint work to build their capacity to fight terrorism and provide security that benefits both Palestinians and Israelis.”

Back in the White House, Trump “expressed his strong desire to achieve a comprehensive, just, and lasting settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to continue the two countries’ consultations to help reach solutions for regional issues,” according to a statement released after Trump’s meeting Wednesday with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Greenblatt’s trip is part of an opening attempt to try to broker fresh peace talks after years of stagnation.

His visit marks the first major attempt by the new US administration to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after two months that have seen officials dither on support for the two-state solution, the possible relocation of the US Embassy and opposition to building in settlements.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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