For Abbas, Talks with Israel Still on Table

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday talks with Israel are still on the table, despite moves at the UN and numerous failed rounds of negotiations.

Abbas was addressing the Palestinian leadership at the opening of a two-day conference in the West Bank to discuss the future of the Palestinian Authority, whose existence is under threat after Israel cut off a key source of funds.

“We ask all countries of the world to recognize the state of Palestine,” he said.

“But we want to say to the Israeli side, these recognitions do not mean in any way that we do not want to negotiate, or that we’re running away from negotiations.”

US-backed talks between the PA and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government collapsed in April after nine months of fruitless meetings amid bitter recriminations and mutual blame.

Relations have since further deteriorated, after a devastating war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza during the summer, and with Palestinian moves against the Israelis in the international arena.

The Palestinians submitted a UN Security Council resolution in December — which was voted down — calling for an end to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank within two years, and in January joined the International Criminal Court, where they plan to press for war crimes against Israel.

Israel has in response frozen $127 million per month in tax revenues due the PA, depriving it of most of its funds and rendering it unable to pay tens of thousands of employees.

“This is the third month in a row that we’re taking loans from the banks,” Abbas said, adding that a “political solution” was the best way to end the deadlock.

Abbas said the Palestinians were ready to deal and talk with “whoever” wins an Israeli general election on March 17.

“We are not interfering, or saying who we’d like to see or who we’d not like to see” win the vote, he said.

“Whoever that man is, or whatever his politics… the (Israeli) people will elect who they want, and we will deal with him.”

Netanyahu, whose right-wing coalition includes members who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, is likely to return for a fourth term in office, making a return to peace talks unlikely.

Referring to the Palestinians’ own elections, Abbas urged rivals Hamas, the movement that controls the Gaza Strip, to coordinate with the PA in making sure a long-overdue Palestinian vote goes ahead.

“As soon as Hamas sends me written official approval, I will immediately issue a decree calling for elections,” he said.

Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement with the PLO in April which was to pave the way for a general election by the end of 2014, but the Gaza war and a failure to implement the unity deal has caused delays.

The last Palestinian general election was in 2006, when Hamas won a parliamentary majority.

(Agencies via Ma’an – www.maannews.net)

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