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Peres says Israel can reach peace with ‘worthy partner’ Abbas

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Israel can reach a peace deal with “worthy partner” Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli President Shimon Peres said in remarks published Monday, after the Palestinian leader expressed his grievances over the failed peace process.

“I am aware that there are other opinions (about whether Abbas can or wants to make peace), but I don’t accept them,” Peres told Haaretz newspaper this week.

“I’ve had no small number of conversations with Abu Mazen,” Peres continued, referring to Abbas by his less formal name. “All of them were with the prime minister’s knowledge. He knows all the details. Based on these conversations, I’m convinced we could have achieved peace with Abu Mazen.

“He’s a worthy partner and can deliver the goods,” the premier added.

When asked why this has not yet happened, Peres replied: “Because the prime minister thinks there’s a different way … Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu removed hundreds of roadblocks in the West Bank, which contributed a lot to strengthening the Palestinian economy and to building a state-in-the-making. But there were no negotiations.

“We also built a state before we became a state,” Peres said. “To a great degree, that’s what the Palestinians are doing today.”

On the topic of a possible Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement being reached in the coming three years, Peres said, “There’s a reasonable chance. I don’t know any prime minister who has influenced reality more than reality has influenced him. There is no prime minister who isn’t eventually influenced by reality.”

Abbas’ letter to Netanyahu

Last week, the Palestinians delivered a letter Abbas for Netanyahu in which he accused Israel of stripping the Palestinian Authority of all of its authority and warned over the slide towards a bi-national state.

“As a result of actions taken by successive Israeli governments, the Palestinian National Authority no longer has any authority, and no meaningful jurisdiction in the political, economic, territorial and security spheres,” he wrote according to a copy of the missive which was seen by AFP.

Abbas asked Israel to outline “as soon as possible” its positions on four key issues: the principle of a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines, halting settlement activity, releasing all Palestinian prisoners, and revoking all decisions which undermine bilateral agreements since 2000.

“For the PLO, and the Palestinian National Authority -- now stripped of all meaningful authority -- cannot continue to honor agreements while Israel refuses to even acknowledge its commitments,” he wrote in reference to the multiple agreements signed with Israel since the 1993 Oslo Accords, which brought about the creation of the Palestinian Authority a year later.

“We stand ready to immediately resume negotiations the minute we receive your positive response on these points,” he wrote.

Israel says it wants negotiations without preconditions, but the Palestinians have sought a settlement freeze and clear parameters for talks before returning to the table.

In January, negotiators from both sides held five exploratory meetings in a bid to find a way to resume dialogue, but they ended inconclusively.