A senior Palestinian Authority official on Thursday rejected the recent appeal made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he was “prepared to go to Ramallah” in order to resume Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called Netanyahu “king of the settlers” and dismissed his remarks as a PR stunt, Israel Radio reported. Erekat charged that the prime minister actively worked against a sustainable two-state solution.
Another senior PA official, Jamal Mohaisen, said that Netanyahu was unwelcome in Ramallah, and that returning to the negotiating table would be meaningless unless the prime minister were willing to discuss ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
During a meeting Tuesday with Women Wage Peace, an organization formed after the 2014 Gaza war that is composed of Jewish and Arab women calling for coexistence, the prime minister said he was “prepared to go to Ramallah or anywhere else right now to meet and hold direct negotiations without preconditions.”
Netanyahu said Israel was interested in resuming peace talks right away. The solution to the conflict, he declared, was “two states for two peoples – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
Netanyahu has sought to reposition himself as a proponent of the two-state solution since his reelection, in contrast to pre-election comments he made that appeared to reject the establishment of a Palestinian state prompted the US to say it could reassess its policies toward Israel.
Secret contacts between Netanyahu and Abbas have been taking place for several months, according to recent reports, including in The Times of Israel. Those reports have been denied by both the Prime Minister’s Office and Erekat.
The statement from Netanyahu comes as rumors have begun swirling that the 80-year-old Abbas plans to step down as president of the PA after a decade on the job, amid frustration that all roads to Palestinian statehood appear blocked.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry assessed that Middle East peace talks could be relaunched. “I believe there is a chance and I think it is imperative we have not lost sight of that issue,” he said in an interview with MSNBC.
Two decades of talks brokered mainly by the United States have failed to produce a two-state solution. The latest peace push, led by Kerry, fell short in April 2014 after nine months of tense negotiations, and the gaps between Israeli and Palestinian positions remain vast.