Abbas agrees to meet Netanyahu without settlement freeze

The Palestinians are reportedly willing to come to the negotiating table without preconditions. How sincere are they? 

Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas will temporarily relinquish his long-standing demand for Israel to freeze its construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria as a prerequisite to the restarting of the diplomatic process with Israel, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

According to the report, which is based on an interview with Mohammad Mustafa, Abbas’s senior economic adviser and former deputy prime minister, Abbas will also tone down his campaign to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes at international courts and to rally condemnation of Israel at the United Nations (UN).

“We have not made the settlements an up-front issue this time,” Mustafa said in an interview with Bloomberg. “We think it’s better for all of us right now to focus on giving this new [Trump] administration a chance to deliver.”

During his recent visit in Israel, President Donald Trump reportedly put pressure on Abbas to renew the diplomatic process with Israel.

The negotiations have been stalled since 2014, when US Secretary of State John Kerry brokered talks, which collapsed after nine months.

Mustafa explained that rampant unemployment in the PA, lack of funds and international donors’ failure to provide promised funds are among the reasons Abbas is being forced to negotiate.

Trump Earns Palestinian Confidence

The Bloomberg report quoted another high-ranking Abbas aide, Mohammad Shtayyeh, as saying that Trump earned Palestinian confidence when he postponed moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump signed a waiver last week pushing off the move for another six months, eliciting Israeli disappointment.

“There is a new dynamic,” Shtayyeh claimed. “The embassy issue is behind us.”

Palestinians Demand More

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently initiated a series of trust building gestures towards the Palestinians, but they are apparently unimpressed by them. The goodwill gestures included keeping the Allenby Bridge crossing in to Jordan open all day and developing a Palestinian industrial zone.

A spokesman for Michael Oren, a deputy Israeli cabinet minister, explained that gestures, such as reducing waiting time at the Allenby Bridge could add millions of work hours a year to the Palestinian economy.

“We don’t want to be tricked with small, not-so-meaningful steps,” Mustafa said of the gestures. If the Israelis “want to help, we have an agenda to change this economy.”

Mustafa said that hundreds of millions of dollars in annual aid that donor nations pledged to the Palestinian Authority, but did not deliver, are imperative for saving the Palestinian economy.

But on a per capita basis, the Palestinian Arabs receive about nine times as much aid as the Sudanese, and, of course, far more aid per capita than any other people on the planet, and yet their economy has stagnated.

Next, foreign investment in sectors such as energy, tourism, real estate, and industry are required, Mustafa said.

The Palestinians are impressed with Trump’s dedication to resolving the conflict with Israel, Shtayyeh said. He contrasted Trump’s attitude with that of former President Barack Obama, who he said “outsourced” the project to ex-Secretary of State John Kerry.

“With this administration, the White House is engaged and that’s a huge difference,” Shtayyeh told Bloomberg. But he cautioned: “That doesn’t mean I’m optimistic. Don’t misunderstand.”

By: World Israel News Staff