Abbas reportedly turns down visiting Biden’s peace plan

VP said to offer settlement freeze and a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem in exchange for PA recognizing Israel as Jewish and dropping ‘right of return’

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

US Vice President Joe Biden (left) with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on March 9, 2016. (Photo by FLASH90)
US Vice President Joe Biden (left) with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on March 9, 2016. (Photo by FLASH90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly turned down a peace initiative put forward by US Vice President Joe Biden in Ramallah on Wednesday.

The deal offered a settlement construction freeze and a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem in exchange for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the relinquishment of Palestinian rights to return to live in Israel, Palestinian newspaper Al Quds reported.

The idea was floated on Tuesday by White House officials who told The Wall Street Journal that President Barack Obama, who leaves office in less than year, wanted to bequeath more promising ground to his successor by announcing an initiative of some kind to push the moribund peace process forward. One of the ideas on the table was the one Biden reportedly proposed to Abbas.

However, a US official told The Times of Israel that Biden did not pitch a any new pitch initiatives during his visit to Ramallah. “He did, of course, reiterated the United States’ enduring support for a two-state solution,” the official said.

The last US-backed effort to kick-start the peace process broke down in 2014.

Biden’s push came as the French Foreign Ministry’s special envoy Pierre Vimont was making preparations to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah on March 13. The French are pushing an international peace conference aimed at bringing the two sides together this summer.

File: Pierre Vimont, France's special envoy for peace initiative (Youtube screenshot)
File: Pierre Vimont, France’s special envoy for its new Mideast peace initiative (screen capture: YouTube)

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Wednesday withdrew a threat made by his predecessor Laurent Fabius that France would automatically recognize a Palestinian state if the Paris initiative failed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had rejected Fabius’s ultimatum as counterproductive, arguing that the confab was doomed to fail since the Palestinians were being told they would gain recognition if no results were achieved. Still, Jerusalem has said it would study the framework for the conference when official invitations are sent out and would carefully weigh its response.

During his two-hour meeting with Biden on Wednesday, Abbas offered the first indirect criticism of terror during the current wave of violence by offering his condolences for the murder of American citizen Taylor Force, 29, who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. Abbas immediately stressed that Israel had killed some 200 Palestinians during the past five months of violent tension, Ynet reported.

Earlier this week, Abbas praised as a “martyr” a young Palestinian woman who attempted to kill an IDF soldier with her car. “We see in her a martyr who watered the pure earth of Palestine with her blood,” he wrote in a letter to the parents of Amani Husni Sabatin, 34, from the Palestinian village of Husan, near Bethlehem, who was killed by IDF troops as she ran over a soldier in the Gush Etzion area on Friday.

AFP and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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