Abbas says Israel snubbed his attempt to meet Netanyahu

Abbas says Israel snubbed his attempt to meet Netanyahu

Jerusalem denies claim as ‘an attempt to evade responsibility’; Palestinian leader insists PA is not inciting violence

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to Israeli journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to Israeli journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

RAMALLAH — Israel has not responded to a Palestinian initiative for a summit meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the latter said Thursday.

In a conversation with Israeli reporters at the PA’s Ramallah headquarters, Abbas said he had sought to initiate a meeting between two top Palestinian officials and two of their Israeli counterparts who would prepare the summit between himself and Netanyahu.

That was two months ago, the Palestinian leader said, “But since then, we haven’t heard from the Israeli side.”

Netanyahu’s office denied Abbas’s claim.

“It isn’t true,” a source in the Prime Minister’s Office said. “It’s an attempt by Abbas to evade responsibility for the lack of talks. Even today, Netanyahu called on Abbas at Davos to come to negotiate without preconditions.”

Abbas, too, reiterated his own call to return to negotiations on Thursday, but said he would not rescind his demand that Israel freeze settlement construction during the talks.

“Beyond that,” he said, “we demand that Israel respect the agreements that it is signed on to, including the deal to release 104 prisoners, which Netanyahu agreed to on the phone with John Kerry while [Kerry] was in my office in Ramallah.”

Abbas called on Israel to release the last of four cohorts of Palestinian prisoners it agreed to free during the last round of US-brokered peace talks in 2014.

Israel refused to release the last group as talks broke down that year, disputing that it had ever agreed to release Israeli Arabs, noting that the overall package of releases was agreed to as part of an effort to facilitate the talks, and blaming the Palestinian Authority for the talks’ failure.

Abbas reiterated his longstanding rejection of Israel’s demand that he recognize it as a Jewish nation state.

“We recognized the State of Israel in 1993,” he said. “And you didn’t demand from Egypt and Jordan to recognize you as a Jewish state. If you want, Netanyahu can go to the UN and the UN will recognize him with whatever definition he wants.”

Abbas emphasized the PA would continue its security coordination with Israel, saying: “Until this very minute, I have not changed my position on this issue.”

Asked about official Palestinian Authority incitement to violence, which Netanyahu and cabinet ministers have claimed has been stoking the recent wave of terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank, Abbas denied the PA was engaged in incitement and invited an American interlocutor to settle the issue.

He said he was “ready at any time” to reconvene a joint Palestinian-Israeli-American committee that examined the issue in the past.

“We are willing to accept any suggestion made by the American representative on that committee,” he promised.

The Israeli reporters pressed Abbas on his failure to condemn the murder of Israelis in the current wave of stabbings, car-rammings and shootings; the Palestinian leader said he was opposed to bloodshed on all sides, regardless of the perpetrator.

“Any bloodshed — Muslim, Jewish or Christian — is haram,” or forbidden by Muslim law, he said.

Asked why the PA paid benefits and salaries to Palestinians who took part in terror attacks, and to the families of terrorists, he suggested the motive was concern for the families’ welfare, not support for violence.

“If the Palestinian Authority arrests a spy who spies for Israel and decides to execute him, it will pay his wife and children a salary, because that’s the tradition and custom among Palestinians,” Abbas said.

Asked about a possible heir to his rule, the octogenarian Palestinian leader replied: “Just as the Palestinian institutions chose an heir to [Yasser] Arafat,” so they would select his heir in the event of his death or resignation.

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