The linkage Israel has created between freeing Palestinian prisoners and approving construction in the settlements is liable to blow up the peace talks, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned Monday.
At a meeting with senior members of his Fatah party in Ramallah, Abbas said there has been no progress in negotiations with Israel and that tensions could increase in the near future.
He said Israel’s announcement of new settlement construction, which coincided with its release of a second batch of Palestinian prisoners last week, was particularly problematic.
The Netanyahu government will be moving forward on the construction of 5,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as part of an effort to appease right-wingers angered by the four-part release of 104 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners who have been serving jail sentences for terrorism-related offenses since before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. Twenty-six were freed last week, in the second stage of the release.
Abbas reiterated that the Palestinian Authority will insist Israel free all 104 prisoners and allow them to go to their own homes rather than deport them. If that doesn’t happen, said Abbas, the Palestinian Authority will resume its campaign for action against Israel in the United Nations.
The Palestinian president also questioned Israel's assertion that it must retain control of the Jordan Valley under any agreement for security reasons, saying the real issue is the money earned by Israeli agricultural enterprises in the Jordan Valley. “It’s an economic issue," he said, "not a security one.”
Abbas also said he has written to 29 countries in Europe and elsewhere to ask them to sever all commercial and business ties with the settlements.
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