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Abbas an Obstacle in New White House Bid to Start Talks

08-14-2017
Senior Advisor Jared Kushner Meets with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, Photo, AP

JERUSALEM, Israel – Trump administration envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt will be returning to Israel in the near future "to advance the peace process," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told cabinet ministers on Sunday.

"President Trump will soon send his representatives, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, for talks in the region including, of course, in Jerusalem, in an effort to advance the peace process. Of course, we will welcome them as always," Netanyahu said.

According to media reports, the administration's deputy national security advisor, Dina Powell, will accompany Kushner and Greenblatt. The trio is expected to meet with other interested parties in the region, including Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, one P.A. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the London-based Arabic-language Asharq al-Awsat newspaper the P.A. will not participate in "real peace talks" as long as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under investigation.

Netanyahu, for his part, has rejected allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust by the state attorney general, calling them unfounded and destined to fail. As one Israeli attorney told CBN News last week, there's nothing to talk about at this point.

For the P.A., it provides a convenient out.

"We don't want the case of [former Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert to repeat itself," al-Awsat quoted the unnamed official. "We were on the verge of an agreement and then he resigned."

In point of fact, P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Olmert's offer to withdraw from 93 percent of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), a fact Abbas eventually admitted.

Olmert also offered to withdraw from predominantly Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and even to place Israel's capital under international control. He further offered to accept what he called a "symbolic number" of so-called refugees, saying that didn't resolve the issue because their descendants now numbered in the millions.

"I told him, 'Remember my words, it will be 50 years before there will be another Israeli prime minister that will offer you what I am offering you now. Don't miss the opportunity,'" the Times of Israel quoted Olmert as having said.

Nonetheless, the P.A.'s refusal to enter into talks with Netanyahu didn't stop its parent organization, the Palestine Liberation Organization, from petitioning the Trump administration to endorse a two-state solution.

The PLO's executive committee is also calling on the Trump administration to pressure Israel to freeze construction in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and in Jerusalem neighborhoods outside the pre-1967 armistice lines.

That's another gesture that has never moved the process along. There's a consensus among many who've followed the stalemate that the P.A. is not interested in reaching an agreement with Israel.

In December 2009, Netanyahu yielded to then President Obama's call for a 10-month construction freeze as a good faith measure to bring the P.A. back to direct negotiations. At the end of the time, the P.A. demanded an extension as a prerequisite. The PLO's latest demands are as meaningless as they've always been.

"The Executive Committee urged the American administration to back the principle of two states along the 1967 borders and ask the occupation authority, Israel, to halt colonial settlement activities," read an Executive Committee statement published in PA state media over the weekend, the Jerusalem Post reported.

In February, Trump told the press, "I'm looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like. I can live with either one."

 

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