Abbas Rejects Netanyahu Compromises Ahead of Palestinian Statehood Bid

Faced with a possible recognition of an independent Palestinian state later this week, Quartet officials, including Mideast envoy Tony Blair, labor to draft a statement that would send Israel and the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiations table.

The Palestinian Authority has rejected several attempts to sway it away from its statehood bid at the United Nations and toward resumed peace talks with Israel, Haaretz learned on Sunday, with sources saying that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rebuffed proposals that included compromises by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Representatives of the Quartet on the Middle East – which includes the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations – are scheduled to meet in New York later Sunday in order to draft a statement that will call on Monday for direct peace talks to resume.

Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu - AP - 05092011

Netanyahu has reportedly agreed to several compromises in regard to the Quartet statement's wording, specifically on issues such as the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, among others.

Regarding the proposed borders of a future Palestinian state, Netanyahu reportedly agreed to a vaguer wording concerning the West Bank's main settlement blocs. One Quartet draft spoke of negotiations based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps, with borders that are not identical to those of 1967 and taking into account "demographic reality on the ground."

Netanyahu gave his consent to have a more ambiguous wording to that statement, in order to provide the Americans and Blair more leeway with the Palestinian side.

On the subject of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, an older version of the Quartet proclamation offered "two states for two nations, with Israel as a Jewish state and the national home of the Jewish people."

Netanyahu agreed to compromise here as well, and allow the statement to speak of two states for two as well as of two national states, without mentioning a "Jewish state."

Furthermore, the premier also reportedly agreed to be more flexible on the length of future negotiations as well as on security assurances, a subject he has until now refused to address and which was not included in the Quartet's July statement.

American officials want the current version to limit negotiations to six months, while Netanyahu is prepared to agree to one year of peace talks.

Until this point, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected all of the proposed draft statements, even those which included Netanyahu's revisions. Eventually, Quartet Mideast Envoy Tony Blair and American officials decided that a statement would be released regardless of any objections, in order to gauge the sides' responses later.

One U.S. proposal handed to Abbas has been to ask the UN Secretary General and the Security Council that Palestine be accepted as a full UN member, on condition that the membership is processed for a period of several months, at which time direct talks between Israel and the PA could resume along the guidelines stipulated in the Quartet statement.

However, sources have indicated that Abbas has rejected that offer as well, with aides to the Palestinian president saying that Abbas was interested in bringing Palestinian statehood to the General Assembly and to the Security Council at the same time, as a result of the length of time needed to process the proposal at the UNSC.

A reported Palestinian proposal is to bring to the UNGA an offer to recognize Palestine as an independent state within the 1967 borders, but not as a full member of the UN.

Speaking of their repeated rejections of Quartet drafts, Palestinian officials have said that the United States was working with cooperation with Israel, going as far as saying that Blair spoke to them like an "Israeli diplomat" and not like an international emissary, adding that U.S. Mideast envoy Dennis Ross used "undiplomatic language."