Netanyahu, Abbas met secretly in Jordan — report

Two leaders held summit in Amman days before truce with Hamas; PA official confirms push in UN for West Bank withdrawal

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

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met secretly in Amman several days ago, a Jordanian newspaper reported Thursday.

The report in Al-Ghad said the meeting, likely sponsored by Jordan’s king, took place several days before Israel and Hamas agreed on a ceasefire on Tuesday.

The news outlet offered no further details. Israel’s Army Radio said the meeting took place on Sunday.

There was no confirmation of the report from either the Palestinian or Israeli sides, and the Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment.

Ramallah was heavily involved in talks to end Gaza’s fighting, and the ceasefire was announced by Abbas on Tuesday night.

Senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath told Ma’an that the US pressured Israel into agreeing to the truce even though it didn’t include a demand that Hamas, the de facto ruler of Gaza, give up its arms.

In a report published on Thursday, Shaath declared that the future opening of Gaza border crossings for goods and travel, said to be agreed in the ceasefire, would effectively bring to an end Israel’s blockade of the coastal enclave.

Netanyahu has been adamant that Hamas did not gain anything from the 50-day conflict or the ceasefire agreement, and that it dropped “all of its demands”; Hamas said ending the blockade was its prime objective.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8 in an effort to halt terrorist rocket fire from the Gaza Strip at Israeli towns and to destroy a network of tunnels, dug under the border by Hamas, that were used to launch deadly attacks inside Israel.

The full terms of a long-term, post-ceasefire “arrangement” are to be negotiated during talks in Cairo that are to take place in a month.

Netanyahu and Abbas have not publicly met face to face since September 2010, despite several months of intense Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that ended in April.

Netanyahu said last week that Israel was pursuing a new diplomatic “horizon,” but offered no other details.

On Sunday, Abbas recently said he would unveil a “surprise” diplomatic initiative that the US would not like, thought to be an international push for statehood recognition in lieu of peace talks.

Shaath confirmed Thursday that the PA would lobby the UN Security Council next month to draw up a schedule for Israel to pull out of the West Bank, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported on Thursday.

The application is to be submitted on September 15 and will demand a timetable for a withdrawal, Shaath said. Ahead of the diplomatic move the Arab League is scheduled to hold a meeting on the matter on September 5 to plan its support for the bid.

Nabil Shaath in his Ramallah office (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Nabil Shaath in his Ramallah office (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Should the Security Council reject the request, the Palestinians will petition the International Criminal Court in the The Hague to bring charges against Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon over alleged war crimes during Operation Protective Edge, Shaath said.

“Taking the case to the ICC is conditional upon the Security Council response to our request,” Shaath explained.

Abbas has debated for months whether to join the court, a step that would transform his relations with Israel from tense to openly hostile and could also strain the PA’s ties with the United States, which opposes the ICC bid. Last week Hamas said it backs the idea.

If Abbas were to turn to the court, Hamas could be investigated for indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel since 2000. Israel could come under scrutiny for its actions in the recent Gaza conflict as well as decades of settlement building on war-won lands the Palestinians seek for a state.

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority collapsed after nine months in April amid mutual recriminations that each side refused to live up to its pre-talks commitments. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni led the Israeli delegation while Saeb Erekat fronted the Palestinian team.

Israel officially suspended peace talks after Abbas agreed a unity pact with the Islamist group Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel. Before that, Palestinians applied to join a series of international treaties in contravention of understandings with the US and Israel, an apparent reaction to Israel’s own refusal to go ahead with a scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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