Abbas to give Israel ultimatum in UN speech
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Analysis

Abbas to give Israel ultimatum in UN speech

Sources in Ramallah say PA president will set deadline for Jerusalem to ‘meet obligations’ or he’ll cancel Oslo Accords

Avi Issacharoff
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the Executive Committee of the PLO in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on September 1, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the Executive Committee of the PLO in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on September 1, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not intend to announce the termination of the Oslo Accords or to declare Palestine an occupied state during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, contrary to previous reports, according to Palestinian sources in Ramallah.

These sources told The Times of Israel on Monday, however, that Abbas does plan to give Israel a “deadline” — as yet unspecified — for “meeting its obligations” lest the Palestinians go ahead and announce the Oslo Accords null and void.

Under the 1993 agreement, the Palestinian Authority administers civil and security control over the West Bank’s major cities, which are delineated as Area A. Area B is under PA civil control, but with joint security control with Israel, while Area C — the bulk of the West Bank — is under Israeli control.

The possible announcement comes after weeks of reports in the Palestinian press that Abbas was prepared to drop a “bombshell” during his UN speech.

According to a report in the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, the Palestinians have been sending messages to Israel on the contents of the speech and Abbas’s intentions.

MK Meir Sheetrit (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Meir Sheetrit (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The newspaper published an article Monday, based on a PA document (in Arabic), describing the contents of a September 9 meeting between former Israeli minister Meir Sheetrit and Abbas in Ramallah during which the PA leader asked Sheetrit to convey to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Palestinians did not intend to escalate matters with unilateral decisions, but did plan to issue sharp statements.

The newspaper also reported that PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh informed Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major-General Yoav Mordechai that Abbas would announce that “Israel could not be a partner for peace if it did not meet its obligations within an established timeframe.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, September 15, 2010 (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, September 15, 2010 (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Similarly, Abbas will also suggest that Netanyahu, who is set to speak at the UN on Thursday, announce that the Israeli government is prepared to “move forward with a permanent peace process with the Palestinians.”

Mordechai asked that this message be transferred via chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat to Israeli Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, who was charged with leading any talks with the Palestinians after Israeli general elections in March.

Mordechai also expressed his appreciation to Nidal Abu Dohan, the commander of the Palestinian national security forces, on the security coordination between the two sides and expressed Israel’s willingness to build two new Palestinian cities in the West Bank.

The report in Al-Akhbar mentions a meeting tentatively scheduled between Netanyahu and Abbas on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, following conversations between the Israeli prime minister and the PA President (and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin) after the July terror attack in Duma in which three members of the Dawabsha family were killed.

Mordechai, according to the report, surprised the Palestinian officials by telling them that Netanyahu wanted to postpone the meeting with Abbas until after the UNGA, as per a request by the Americans. This comes after the Haaretz daily reported on Sunday that US Secretary of State John Kerry pressured the Palestinians to delay any Abbas-Netanyahu meeting, and Abbas complied.

Palestinian officials said Kerry sought to ensure American involvement in any peace bid, and therefore asked Abbas to postpone the meeting.

The State Department denied the Haaretz report and said the Palestinian account was a misrepresentation aimed at deflecting attention away from Abbas’s reluctance to meet Netanyahu.

Mordechai on Monday denied the report that he had asked to delay a Netanyahu-Abbas meeting, calling it “false, and that’s an understatement.”

Earlier this month, Netanyahu said he was willing to meet Abbas “right now” to resume peace negotiations without preconditions.

Secret contacts between Netanyahu and Abbas have been taking place for several months, according to recent reports, including in The Times of Israel. Those reports have been denied by both the PMO and Erekat.

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