Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is searching in vain for proof of his claims that he made overtures to the Israeli government to initiate negotiations two months ago.
At a press conference with Israeli reporters at the PA’s Ramallah headquarters on Thursday, Abbas announced that he had sought to initiate a meeting between two of his top officials and their Israeli counterparts in order to prepare a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Abbas said that “There were contacts for a meeting with Netanyahu two months ago, but his people evaded preliminary meetings to agree on the meeting.”
A source in the Prime Minister’s Office said, “It isn’t true. 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.”
Netanyahu is in Davos, attending the World Economic Forum, where he took time out to call for Abbas to meet with him for negotiations.
When US State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner was asked if the White House could corroborate Abbas’s claims, he responded in the negative, saying they were unaware of any such activity.
At the press meeting on Thursday, Abbas went on to call for negotiations between the two governments, but premised the meeting on a pre-condition of putting a freeze on building in Judea and Samaria.
“Beyond that,” Abbas 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 he was in my office in Ramallah.”
Another point preventing the talks from going forward is the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, though they have recognized it as a state since 1993.
“We recognized the State of Israel in 1993,” he said. “And you didn’t demand from Egypt and Jordan to recognize you as a Jewish state. If you want, Netanyahu can go to the UN and the UN will recognize him with whatever definition he wants.”
Abbas also denied claims that the PA had incited violence against Israelis, resulting in a wave of terror, saying, “I don’t incite, contrary to what Israeli cabinet ministers are saying. I call on them to show me where exactly am I inciting.”
He went on to blame Israel for the violence. “Let’s not forget that the wave of violence is the result of the absence of a political horizon and peace process.”
“I hear that you are saying that I incite against Israel,” Abbas continued. “You are saying that I’m a political terrorist. But I’m opposed to incitement and call for negotiations for peace.”
When it was noted that the PA paid benefits and salaries to Palestinians who took part in terror attacks, and to the families of terrorists, he suggested the motive was concern for the families’ welfare, not support for violence, saying, “It is our law and culture.” The PA president explained, “It’s my duty to look after every prisoner. If the Palestinian Authority arrests a spy who spies for Israel and decides to execute him, it will pay his wife and children a salary, because that’s the tradition and custom among Palestinians.”