Jerusalem, May 14 – Palestinian officials have rejected an Israeli call for the resumption of direct peace talks without preconditions, rejected a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that was delivered to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the weekend.
"The content of (Netanyahu's) letter did not represent grounds for returning to negotiations," Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said in a Reuters interview. Netanyahu’s letter was in response to a letter from Abbas delivered on April 17.
Netanyahu has repeatedly offered to resume direct peace talks with the Palestinians without preconditions, while the Palestinians have insisted that Israel release all convicted Palestinian prisoners, freeze construction in the West Bank and agree to borders. However, when Netanyahu imposed unilateral construction freeze in 2010 the Palestinians refused to negotiate until the very end, then walked out of the talks.
The Ha’aretz newspaper reported that the Netanyahu letter was the first time a Palestinian state was mentioned in an official Israeli document. Instead of arguing with accusations made in the Abbas letter, the letter called on the Palestinians to look to the future and start a dialog.
Netanyahu’s call for peace talks was boosted by the addition last week of the Kadima party to his government. Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz is on the record saying he wants to establish a Palestinian state with temporary borders while talks on a final peace treaty continue.
Despite repeated calls as well by the international community to resume negotiations, the progress has been stymied by the Palestinians inability to meet Israel without pre-conditions.
Since last year the Quartet, comprised of the United States, the U.N., Russia and the European Union, has pushed for the resumption of direct peace talks. Last September the Quartet issued a call that “reiterated its urgent appeal to the parties to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without delay or preconditions.”