Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was set to meet Sunday with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, with a top Fatah official saying the Palestinians have delivered “all the concessions they can.”
Abbas’s meetings in the United States come two weeks after diplomatic talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American officials. The Palestinian president will meet with President Barack Obama on Monday, insisting on “Palestinian principles and international legitimacy,” his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told the official Wafa news agency.
Abbas made no diplomatic statement prior to leaving for the US on Saturday, but has previously outlined a number of “red lines” for continuing talks with Israel beyond April: Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank within four years, an Israeli recognition of the 1967 borders as the basis of the future Palestinian state, and further prisoner releases.
But the most public point of contention remains Abbas’s refusal to recognize Israel as “the Jewish state,” an Israeli demand which until recently seemed to be supported by the US. On Thursday, however, Kerry told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that it was a mistake for Israel to insist on official recognition of the Jewish state.
During a press conference last week with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron, Abbas said that Palestinians have not received any request to extend the negotiations’ timetable. But according to Israeli reports, Abbas would be willing to extend talks beyond April if Israel freezes construction in the settlements and commits to releasing more security prisoners.
“The Palestinians have delivered all the concessions they can,” Fatah Central Committee member Mohammed Al-Madani, Abbas’s liaison with Israel and the Jewish community, told The Times of Israel on Sunday. “Now it’s Israel’s turn to deliver,” Madani said.
Those remarks were the mirror image of Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s comments Saturday, that the Palestinian leader was “a partner for taking, but not a partner for giving.” Ya’alon told Channel 2 of Abbas, “He’s not a partner for a final agreement, at the end of which there is recognition of Israel’s rights as the nation state of the Jewish people, an end of the conflict and an end to all demands. He [Abbas] says this openly.”
Netanyahu last week accused Abbas of having failed to move “one iota” on the key Palestinian positions in the peace talks.
Abbas is traveling with spokesman Abu Rudeineh as well as with chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. Fatah official Madani had no details on Abbas’s exact itinerary, but noted that the Palestinian Authority president traditionally meets with Jewish leaders while in the US.
Despite the Palestinian focus on the trip, Arab attention is devoted almost entirely to the Syrian crisis, as the Assad regime aided by Hezbollah succeeded in capturing the city of Yabroud over the weekend. The renewal of diplomatic talks between government and opposition in Geneva is nowhere in sight.
Meanwhile, Fatah has organized rallies across the West Bank on Sunday in support of Abbas, rejecting “the international pressure exerted upon him.”
Hamas in Gaza arrested 10 Abbas supporters trying to organize a rally — confiscating posters of the PA president and Fatah flags — Wafa news agency reported. The “kidnapped” men included Naif Khuwaiter, coordinator of the pro-Abbas campaign, “We are with you.”