Jerusalem, July 8 – Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas gave mixed messages in an Israeli television news interview saying he supported peace talks for a two-state solution, but that he would not negotiate without preconditions and might renew unilateral attempts to declare a state.
In response to the interview with Israel’s Channel Two television, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying “PM Netanyahu calls upon president Abbas to meet soon in order to promote the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Netanyahu has repeatedly called for the renewal of direct peace talks with the Palestinians without preconditions. “Even after PM Netanyahu made unprecedented steps such as freezing construction in the settlements, Abbas kept on refusing to hold talks,” the statement said.
Abbas said he would only renew peace negotiations if Israel released more Palestinian prisoners and imposed a total freeze on construction in disputed areas. If talks failed to resume, the Palestinians would attempt to unilaterally declare independence at the United Nations, Abbas said, but gave no deadline.
The peace talks have been frozen for several years as the Palestinians demand preconditions, while Israel insists that direct talks be resumed with all subjects open to negotiations. The Palestinians are also limited in their ability to negotiate since the Hamas terrorist organization seized power in Gaza from Abbas’ Fatah party in a bloody 2007 coup. Hamas rejects the peace process and says it is committed to destroying Israel and replacing it with an Islamic state.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in Paris on Friday with Abbas, but no details of the talks were released. Clinton is expected to visit Israel July 16-17 for talks with “Israeli leadership to discuss peace efforts and a range of regional and bilateral issues of mutual concern,” the State Department said.