Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has turned his back on peace after the Fatah leader warned that peace negotiations cannot resume without an Israeli settlement freeze.
Abbas spoke Sunday before the foreign ministers of the Arab League in Cairo, and harshly condemned Netanyahu. He effectively posed an ultimatum before the prime minister, saying that if Netanyahu would not agree to freeze all construction in the settlements and agree to negotiate based on 1967 borders, the Palestinian Authority will renew its unilateral efforts to obtain statehood in the United Nations.
Abbas said he will be sending a letter to Netanyahu with his demands for resuming negotiations. In case of a negative response, Abbas said he will resume the campaign for recognition of a state of Palestine by the UN.
Abbas harshly condemned Netanyahu and said that he did not present any serious proposal during the talks in Jordan, and blamed Netanyahu for failing to make any significant trust building steps toward the Palestinians. Abbas claimed that Netanyahu did offer to impose another settlement freeze, but one that only includes a freeze on new state tenders and not a halt of private construction in the settlements.
"90% of the construction in the settlements is private," Abbas said. "To call that settlement freeze is just false. Today, there is no place in the West Bank and East Jerusalem without settlements. I once told my advisers that one day, we will find a settlement at the heart of the Muqata in Ramallah."
A senior Israeli source confirmed that Netanyahu offered to halt new tenders, but not construction that has already been approved.
Netanyahu issued a statement sharply criticizing Abbas' speech, accusing him of bonding with a terror group, and effectively embracing Iran.
"Abbas' speech showed he is turning his back on peace," Netanyahu said. "Instead of engaging in negotiations that would bring an end to the conflict, Abbas prefers to link to the terror organization Hamas – the same Hamas that embraces Iran."
A senior diplomatic source in Jerusalem added, "Israel agreed in recent weeks to be more flexible and offered Abbas a package of serious gestures, but he decided to reject them, to again pose preconditions and to work toward reconciliation with Hamas," he said.
"We wanted to begin a long-term diplomatic process, but every time we get to the moment of truth, Abbas flees. It's a pattern with him."