Peres to Abbas: Resume talks or face new intifada
Peres and Norwegian FM Jonas Gahr Store discuss Peres's conversation with the PA President.
President Shimon Peres recently warned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that continuing the deadlock in negotiations with Israel could lead to a third intifada and that in delaying, Abbas was "playing with fire."
On Wednesday, U.S. special envoy George Mitchell came to the region in another attempt to jump-start talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
At a meeting at the President's Residence on Sunday, Peres told Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store about his discussions with Abbas.
Store told Peres that Israel should take more steps to support Abbas. "Abu Mazen [Abbas] is vulnerable and feels hurt, and his position needs to be bolstered by American support," Store said, adding: "You have the best psychologists ... How do we read the personality and political mind of Abu Mazen? What will make him move?"
Peres told him about his meetings with Abbas and Saeb Erekat. According to Palestinian sources, Erekat comes to the President's Residence every few weeks for meetings with Peres.
"I am a friend of Abu Mazen. He says the Americans put him in a high tree and took the ladder away. Some of the mistakes were made by him. His expectations of Obama were created by him. He thought that Obama would take the Palestinian side. ... I can understand his feelings of disappointment," Peres said.
Peres said he told Abbas at one point that "postponing peace negotiations is playing with fire. He says that he has time. Something will happen to start an intifada and the two sides will have lost an opportunity."
Peres said he told Abbas, "Start the negotiations. What are you going to lose? It's impossible to have a happy end at the beginning."
Peres told Store that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had revolutionized his positions in accepting the two-state solution. "It is a historic step," he said.
Regarding to the Palestinian demand for a construction freeze in East Jerusalem, Peres said, "About the Old City there is no problem, because Israel prohibits building in the Old City. As far as the Temple Mount is concerned, there is no building there," suggesting that Abbas present this as an achievement. Peres told Store that Netanyahu could not freeze construction in Jerusalem because "Jerusalem is under the jurisdiction of the Israeli parliament."
Peres said he had told Abbas "to be reasonable, and once negotiations are started, then is the time to work out solutions."
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had invited Netanyahu and Abbas to a summit in Cairo to renew talks, the president told Store.
"Abu Mazen wants Netanyahu to declare the 1967 borders. He cannot. The 1967 borders are 40 years past. ... On the other hand, I do not think we have to take territory from them. More or less, we can give them the same amount of land while changing the borders due to of security considerations."
Peres said Israel had accepted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's plan in this vein, and "I told Abu Mazen to accept it too."
Store told Peres that Abbas has to feel that he has the support of the Arab countries to return to negotiations. At this point, Peres seemed pessimistic: "There is no Arab support because there is no Arab [unity]. I was informally approached by Saudi Arabia to accept their paper, which calls for us making peace with Syria on their conditions."
Special envoy Mitchell is scheduled to meet on Thursday with Netanyahu, Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima). In Ramallah, Mitchell will meet with Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Mitchell will continue to try to urge Abbas to renew talks with Israel and to get Netanyahu to give more concessions to the Palestinians.
The prime minister's bureau is said not to have high hopes of returning to talks.
In a press conference for the foreign media yesterday, Netanyahu said Israel had to have an efficient way to stop the missile smuggling, and this would require an Israeli presence on the eastern side of the Palestinian state.