Israel’s Channel 2 said Monday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is interested in restarting peace negotiations with Israel, although Jerusalem remains cautious.
But an official in the PA quickly denied the report, saying it was not accurate.
“Please refer to official Palestinian sources and not the off-the-record game,” an aide to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
Citing talk “in the corridors of Ramallah,” Channel 2’s Arab affairs correspondent Ehud Yaari reported that officials were hinting that Abbas was keen to talk, despite his preconditions for coming to the table not being met.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since 2010, with Abbas demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners and a freeze on settlement construction as preconditions for restarting talks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to not agree to any preconditions before returning to the table, while expressing readiness to discuss all issues when talks resume.
According to the TV report, sources in Jerusalem said that, from Israel’s point of view, the important development will not be seeing Abbas return to the negotiation table, but rather seeing him stay there.
Senior coalition partner Yesh Atid praised the news, saying “direct and courageous talks were the only way to solve the conflict,” according to a statement released Monday night.
The report came three days before US Secretary of State John Kerry is supposed to visit the region in continuing efforts to jump-start peace talks. According to the State Department, Kerry will visit Amman and Jerusalem to meet Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian officials during the three-day visit.
In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Netanyahu made clear his willingness to negotiate immediately and declared that “if [US] Secretary [of State John] Kerry, whose efforts we support, were to pitch a tent halfway between [Jerusalem] and Ramallah — that’s 15 minutes away, driving time — I’m in it, I’m in the tent.”
A spokesperson for Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who was tasked with managing talks with the Palestinians, had no comment on the report.
Aaron Kalman contributed to this report.