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Palestinians: We Offered Israel Best Offer Yet

August 2, 2010
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“We have delivered far-reaching proposals in order to reach the end game,” the negotiator said, while refusing to elaborate on the details of the proposals. “Public relations will not make peace, we’ve been there before. Now it’s time for direct decisions required by Palestinians and Israelis.”

“Unfortunately we haven’t heard a single word from the Israeli side,” Ariqat added. “The key to direct negotiations is in the hands of [Israeli Prime Minister] Bibi Netanyahu [using a nickname for Netanyahu]. The minute he accepts to stop settlements and to have terms of reference for these negotiations on two-state 67 [the 1967 borders] with agreed swaps, we will have direct negotiations immediately.”

Over the weekend Ariqat told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz that the proposals constituted “more than” what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas offered to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

In previous negotiations, Abbas and Olmert agreed on the principal of a territorial swap, in which Israel would formally annex a small percentage of the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] so as to include the larger Jewish communities built in the area which was captured by Israel during the 1967 war. In exchange, Palestinians would be given an equal proportion of Israeli territory.

Abbas is widely believed to have offered Olmert a land swap involving 1.9 percent of the West Bank. It is not known what percentage Abbas has offered in the more recent negotiation round with the current Israeli prime minister, but estimates have ranged from 2.3 percent to 3.8 percent.

Last year Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered a temporary 10-month freeze on the construction of Jewish communities in the West Bank following intense pressure from the American government. Abbas has since refused to enter into direct talks with Israel without a permanent Israeli freeze on such construction, and set the Israeli acceptance of the principal of an Israeli Palestinian territorial swap based on 1967 borders as a precondition for peace talks.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu, day one upon entering office, called upon the Palestinian leadership to negotiate a peace agreement with him,” Mark Regev, spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, told The Media Line. “We’ve been calling for 18 months for peace talks. We have no preconditions whatsoever. We’re willing to start now, today, negotiating with the Palestinians.”

“If Israel was looking for excuses not to negotiate, we have many,” he said. “Just over the weekend, rockets from Gaza were fired into Israel. The Palestinian government is theoretically responsible for what happens there. The Palestinian media is unfortunately still full of incitement…We have many reasons why we could find excuses not to negotiate, but the point is no, we have our concerns, we will bring them to the negotiating table and we urge the Palestinians to do the same.”

“We haven’t just talked about peace, we’ve done tangible steps,” Regev said. “This coalition under Prime Minister Netanyahu has initiated an official policy of two states for two peoples. This coalition under Prime Minister Netanyahu has led to the taking down of more road blocks, more barriers than ever before, allowing the West Bank economy to grow by some 8.5 percent in 2009. This coalition under Prime Minister Netanyahu instituted for the first time a settlement freeze in the West Bank…So lets be clear here—This government has shown that it’s serious about peace.”

“All these things have been done to create a climate of peace,” he concluded. “Unfortunately, for their own reasons, the Palestinians have refused to directly negotiate with Israel for about a year-and-a-half now…On the one hand they say they want peace and on the other hand they’re not prepared to talk to Israel. How do those two policies go together?”

“Let’s say the Palestinians do have their doubts,” Regev added. “Try us! Why are you afraid to try us? Only through negotiation, which will be complex, which will be difficult, which will have its ups and downs, but only through negotiation can we hope to solve the very difficult issues that are on the table.”

The Palestinian president has come under growing international pressure from the Obama administration and a number of Arab leaders to loosen his demands. Over the weekend the Arab daily Al-Hayat had sources claiming that Obama sent Abbas a letter threatening to stop trying to extend the Israeli construction freeze if Abbas continued to set preconditions on direct negotiations with Israel.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) central committee, was meanwhile quoted by Al-Quds Al-Arabi as saying that Obama had threatened to cut ties with the Palestinian Authority if Abbas did not agree to direct talks with Israel. She denies the report. “Al Quds Al Arabi really doctored my interview and it gained a life of it’s own,” she told The Media Line. “There are no secrets here—President Abbas told us that he presented the Americans with the written Palestinian position on all core issues. He got no response from the Israelis.”

“People say negotiation is the only way to stop settlements but the settlements have not stopped, on the contrary they have expanded, particularly in and around Jerusalem,” Dr Ashrawi said. “So we can talk forever and get nowhere, particularly if the Israelis have the freehand to do whatever they want while negotiations are going on.”

Posted on August 2, 2010

Source: (By Felice Friedson & Benjamin Joffe-Walt, The Media Line, August 1, 2010)

Photo Credit: The Media Line

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