Abbas in US to Press for Settlement Freeze

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Washington early Wednesday for his first official meeting with President Barack Obama as Jordan summoned the Israeli envoy in Amman to protest a reported Israeli proposal to set up a Palestinian state in Jordan.

The presidential talks are expected to focus on Israel’s continued building of settlements in occupied territory. The Palestinian Authority has ruled out restarting peace talks with Israel unless the Jewish states, removes all roadblocks and freezes settlement activity, top negotiator Ahmad Qorei told the Haaretz daily.

He said Abbas would present the conditions during the White House talks with Obama Thursday.

The discussions come just 10 days after Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has ignored calls from the United States for a complete freeze on settlement building in the occupied West Bank and rejected limits on building Jewish enclaves in Jerusalem.

More active U.S. support for the Palestinian quest for independence is all the more crucial for Abbas since Netanyahu has so far failed to publicly back the creation of a Palestinian state or to freeze settlement activity.
Palestinian State within Jordan

In the meantime, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh summoned the Israeli ambassador on Tuesday to protest a reported proposal to set up a Palestinian state within the kingdom of Jordan.

"Judeh summoned the Israeli ambassador to inform him of Jordan’s protest and absolute rejection of the proposal at the Knesset," a foreign ministry statement said.

A Jordanian official told AFP that the proposal was about "creating two states on the two banks of the Jordan River, one for the Israelis and one for the Palestinians."

The statement said Judeh "demanded an official clarification from the Israeli government."

Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, "believes in establishing an independent and viable Palestinian state on Palestinian soil," he was quoted as saying.

According to media reports, the idea of a Palestinian state within Jordan was put forward by Aryeh Eldad’s right-wing National Union party, which has four MPs in the Knesset.

Jordan, where a significant proportion of the nearly six million inhabitants are already of Palestinian origin, has repeatedly rejected proposals for a controversial merger with a truncated West Bank.

Jordanian officials worry that the addition of the West Bank’s 2.4 million Palestinians would fundamentally alter the kingdom’s population balance.

Obama has been pushing for a two-state solution but Netanyahu has so far failed to endorse the creation of a Palestinian state — the basis of all peace initiatives over the past 20 years.

( and Agencies)

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