Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Egyptian military leader Muhammad Tantawi on Saturday to discuss Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent letter to Abbas, in which he outlined Israel’s position on resuming peace talks.
The two leaders discussed Israel’s construction of settlements in the West Bank, its naval blockade of Gaza, and its long border with Egypt, according to Palestinian news agency Ma’an. They also looked at ways of garnering international support for Palestinian causes and mentioned that the Saudi-backed Arab Peace Initiative may hold a committee meeting soon.
Wafa News also reported that Hamas and Fatah representatives may meet in Cairo next week to try to push forward on establishing a Palestinian unity government. Earlier this week, Abbas infuriated Hamas by reshuffling his cabinet in Ramallah, without replacing PA prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Hamas said the move pushes the two factions apart.
Nabil el-Araby, Secretary General of the Arab League, said that the group would also discuss the Netanyahu letter, which he referred to as “irresponsible,” in order to determine how to proceed.
The PLO Executive Committee had expressed disappointment with Netanyahu’s letter, stating that it was vague and did not offer anything new. The committee said Netanyahu’s response to Abbas’s letter did not address major issues, like freezing settlement activities, establishing borders and releasing Palestinian prisoners, and did not provide a basis on which to return to the negotiating table.
The committee further called on the international Quartet to intervene in order to overcome peace process obstacles.
Netanyahu’s letter was a response to a previous letter from Abbas, which stated that the PA had become “meaningless” and called on Israel to stop settlement building and accept the two-state solution based on 1967 borders with land swaps. The letter also stated that the PLO would seek the “implementation of international law” should Israel fail to honor its requests — a reference to its pursuit of a unilateral declaration of independence via a United Nations resolution.
The letter exchange was the highest-level communication between the two sides in months.
Prior to his visit to Cairo, Abbas met with Jordan’s King Abdullah. He is now set to depart for Qatar.