Document shows Palestinian leader slightly softening stance

Mahmoud Abbas planned to tell Obama he would come back to talks even if a settlement freeze was kept secret

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on February 26, 2013 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on February 26, 2013 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

A draft of talking papers leaked to the press Wednesday night had Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas telling US President Barack Obama that he is ready to restart peace negotiations even if his demand for a settlement freeze is only met but not publicly acknowledged, or alternatively threaten to dissolve the authority and return the West Bank to Israeli control.

The suggestions were part of several proposals Abbas intended to make to Obama when they met in Ramallah on Thursday, according to a report from The New York Times. The report was based an apparent draft version of a list of suggested talking points for Abbas to present to Obama.

In the past Abbas has demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly announce a settlement freeze as a precondition to his returning to peace talks, which the Israeli prime minister has refused to do. Direct talks between Israel and the PA have been stalled since September 2010, at the tail end of a 10-month settlement building moratorium. Israel says it is willing to return to the negotiation table without precondition.

The English document apparently originated in the authority’s Negotiations Affairs Department that is headed by the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat.

Abbas also appeared ready to reassure Obama that the PA would not use its new status as a nonmember state of the United Nations to press claims against Israel in the International Criminal Court, on condition that Israel doesn’t begin construction in the area known as E1, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. In December 2012 the government announced plans to renew building in the controversial E1 corridor in the West Bank between East Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim.

The meeting proposals also included a suggestion that Abbas appeal to Obama to persuade Netanyahu to make the 1967 borders the starting point for negotiations.

“I hope you can get [Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu] to say [two states on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps]. He never said it,” the document said. “I hope one day he will put his Map on the table as I did.”

As a last resort, Abbas should threaten to abolish the Palestinian Authority if there is no advance towards a Palestinian state, the memo said.

“I am not threatening, I am sharing a fact with you,” the document suggested Abbas tell Obama. “If this situation continues I will be forced to ask Prime Minister Netenyahoo [sic] to resume his responsibilities.”

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