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Abbas threatens to end agreements with Israel

Palestinians nonetheless open to negotiations with Israel, on condition that it stop settlement construction and free prisoners

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Christmas lunch with members of the Christian Orthodox community in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, January 6, 2016. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Christmas lunch with members of the Christian Orthodox community in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, January 6, 2016. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday said the PA would stop meeting its agreements with Israel if Jerusalem “continues to be the one to violate them.”

Abbas previously threatened to cancel the Palestinians’ agreements with Israel under the Oslo Accords in a speech before the United Nations in September. “So long as Israel refuses to commit to the agreements signed with us, cease settlement construction and release prisoners, Israel has left us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to these agreements,” Abbas told the UN General Assembly in New York.

Speaking to the Arabic press, Abbas said Saturday that despite the ongoing violence between Israeli and Palestinians, the PA was “prepared to open negotiations with the Israeli government, on the condition that it stop settlement construction and free the fourth patch of prisoners” — who were set to be released as part of peace talks that broke down in April 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 that the Palestinians wouldn’t concede Jerusalem as capital of their future state, saying “whoever agrees to a Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital is a traitor.”

On Thursday Abbas said that Israel hasn’t responded to a Palestinian initiative for a summit meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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.”

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