Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas administered a death blow to the peace process in a speech Saturday in which he also repeated his conditions for extending talks with Israel, a senior Israeli official said.
“Abu Mazen (Abbas) administered the coup de grace to the peace process today,” the official said, according to Agence France-Presse. “He “recycled the same conditions, after he already knows Israel won't accept them.”
Earlier on Saturday, Abbas said he was still interested in extending peace talks with Israel at a two day conference with the top leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and that talks could continue if Israel freezes settlement construction, frees prisoners and begins discussion on the borders of a promised Palestinian state.
However, Abbas underscored that Palestinians will never recognize Israel as “Jewish state.”
A senior Hamas official welcomed as “positive” a speech Saturday by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but sidestepped the Palestinian president’s pledge that a new Palestinian unity government would recognise Israel and reject violence.
“The speech had mostly positive points, and we cannot but support it on topics such as Jerusalem, reconciliation and not recognising (Israel as) the Jewish state, in addition to the failure of (peace) negotiations,” Bassem Naim, an adviser to Hamas’ Gaza Strip prime minister Ismail Haniya, told Agence France-Presse.
The conference, held at the PLO's Central Council at its West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, was held to discuss the Palestinian reconciliation deal with Hamas, following Israel pulling out of the peace negotiations.
Hamas and the Fatah-led PLO agreed this week to establish a "national consensus" government under Abbas within weeks.
Israel suspended the peace talks because of the potential deal, stating it would not deal with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, an Islamist movement ruling Gaza that has pledged destruction of the Jewish state.
The faltering peace talks, which have gone beyond their April 29 deadline, hit another wall last month after Israel refused to release the final back of Palestinian prisoners.
Freezing and freeing
In response, the Palestinians listed conditions for extending the peace talks which included freezing of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem and freeing the prisoners.
Israel dismissed the conditions.
On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said U.S. efforts to broker a peace deal had not failed, but were currently in a "holding period" as Palestinians and Israelis decide their next move.
She noted Abbas had insisted that any government formed with Hamas backing would "represent his policies, and that includes recognition of Israel, commitment to non-violence, adherence to prior agreements and commitment to peaceful negotiations toward a two-state solution."
(With AFP and Reuters)