Abbas aide backs Peres account on deal stymied by Netanyahu

Mohammad al-Madani: Israel’s president is ‘respectable and honest’ and his statements ‘cannot be doubted’

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad Al-Madani (Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)
Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad Al-Madani (Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

President Shimon Peres spoke the truth when he accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of torpedoing a peace deal three years ago, an aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told The Times of Israel on Wednesday, in a first official Palestinian comment on the president’s controversial remarks.

“President Peres is a respectable and honest man,” said Mohammed al-Madani, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee and Abbas’s point man on Israeli society. “The president’s statements cannot be doubted.”

He would not provide more details on the agreement supposedly reached between Peres and Abbas.

During an Independence Day interview broadcast on Channel 2 Tuesday, Peres said that Netanyahu rejected a deal Peres reached with Abbas in 2011 following secret talks in Jordan, a deal which would have included Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

According to Peres, when a draft agreement was reached addressing “almost all issues,” Netanyahu asked him to wait a few days in the hope that Quartet representative and former British prime minister Tony Blair could negotiate a better deal.

“The days went by and there was no better deal,” said Peres. ”Netanyahu stopped it [the potential agreement].”

Seconding Madani’s comments, a source close to Abbas, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that history was the best arbiter between the versions of the president and the prime minister.

President Shimon Peres at the President's residence in Jerusalem, April 28, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash 90)
President Shimon Peres at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, April 28, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

In 1987, Peres negotiated a deal with Jordan’s King Hussein in which Jordan would represent the Palestinians living in the West Bank. Known as “the Jordanian option” the deal was quickly thwarted by Israel’s prime minister at the time, Yitzhak Shamir.

“Then it was Shamir, now it’s Bibi [Netanyahu],” the official said. “The liar is managing to lead everyone astray. How could people wonder who is telling the truth, Bibi or Peres?”

The blame game between Israel and the Palestinians continued on Wednesday, as Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Netanyahu’s national security adviser Yossi Cohen sent a letter to foreign ambassadors on April 22, accusing chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat of planning to apply to international conventions as early as March. Palestinians have claimed that application bid was the result of Israel’s refusal to release the final batch of pre-Oslo prisoners scheduled for March 29.

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