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Abbas Turns Down Netanyahu’s Overture

Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu invited Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas to discuss peace today, but was refused for his failure to halt the settlements under the 2003 U.S.-initiated “roadmap” to peace.

Abbas said last month and again on Sunday in a letter to President Obama that he will not discuss “key issues” unless Israel stops the growth of settlements in the West Bank.

Reuters reports,

[Palestinian chief of the PLO Saeb] Erekat was responding to reports that Israel and the United States were discussing a compromise that would allow some building in existing settlements under what Israel terms “natural growth” to accommodate expanding families.

A U.S. official denied on Wednesday a report in the Israeli daily Maariv that the Obama administration agreed work could continue on 2,500 housing units whose construction had begun, despite its call for a total freeze to spur peace efforts.

The report followed talks in London last week between George Mitchell, Obama’s special Middle East envoy, and Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak aimed at healing a rift over continued settlement activity.

… 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in a 1967 war. Palestinians say Jewish settlements, deemed illegal by the World Court, would deny them a viable and contiguous state.

Western officials said the United States was moving in the direction of making allowances so Israel could finish off at least some existing projects which are close to completion or bound by private contracts that cannot be broken.

Israel estimates that 2,500 units are in the process of being built and cannot be stopped under Israeli law.

In an interview with Ha’aretz, Netanyahu’s national security adviser called the Palestinian government a stooge, or rather a “disorderly constellation of forces and factions.” Of Abbas he said, “But even with him I don’t see a real interest and desire to arrive at the end of the conflict with Israel. On the contrary, he is preserving eternal claims against us and inflaming them.”

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10
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