Haaretz has obtained a copy of a letter that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas intends to send to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Passover, in which he accuses Netanyahu of undermining the Palestinian Authority.
According to both Israeli and Palestinian sources, an envoy headed by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will deliver the letter, which places responsibility for the freeze in negotiations on Israel, during a meeting with Netanyahu over the Passover holiday.
“We entered a contractual agreement with international backing in order to bring the Palestinian people from occupation to independence,” Abbas wrote in the letter. “Currently, and as a result of the policy of consecutive Israeli governments, the Palestinian Authority has no real control over political, economic, geographic or security-related issues.”
Abbas further places forth four demands before Netanyahu - the acceptance of the two-state solution based on 1967 borders with land swaps, a settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the release of Palestinian prisoners, including those who were arrested before the signing of the 1994 Oslo Accords and a return to the situation on the ground in the West Bank prior to September 2000. The final demand relates specifically to respecting the status of Area A in the West Bank, where the PA has full authority of civil and security-related matters.
“We presented our general stance on the issues of borders and security, and emphasized that we respect all the commitments demanded of us,” wrote Abbas in the letter. “We demanded of your government to present general stances surrounding territory and security, stopping settlement building and freeing prisoners. These are not conditions - they are commitments. To our dismay, none of these commitments were carried out.”
The letter was meant to include a threat to dismantle the PA, although that paragraph was later taken out due to heavy U.S. pressure. However, the letter does refer to the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas. “By far the most important commitments demanded of us were over the establishment of a single territorial unit between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, subject to the rule of law and to one authority,” said the letter. “Thus, I am determined to implement this through putting an end to the split through reconciliation, and in accordance to my platform, which includes respecting signed agreements, recognition of Israel and an end to violence. However, Israel has officially supported the split between Fatah and Hamas.”
The Palestinian envoy which will hand the letter over to Netanyahu will include, alongside Fayyad, PLO Executive Committee Secretary Yasser Abed Rabbo, and head Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. The last time Netanyahu met with Palestinian officials was in September 2010, when President Obama was able to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The negotiations came to an end after three weeks due to Israel’s refusal to extend a settlement freeze.
An Israeli official said on Wednesday that a few days after the meeting between Netanyahu and the Palestinian delegation, Netanyahu's emissary Isaac Molho will hold a similar meeting with Abbas and present him with a response letter from Netanyahu.
The final wording of the Israeli missive will be determined after receiving the Palestinian letter, yet a senior Israeli official said that Netanyahu is expected to call on Abbas to renew negotiations with Israel with no preconditions. The letter will include a message from Netanyahu conveying Israel's willingness to renew talk that took place last January in Jordan under the auspices of the Quartet and King Abdullah.
Netanyahu is expected to tell Abbas he is willing to discuss all of the core issues – borders, security, refugees, water, settlements and the status of Jerusalem. He will also write Abbas that he has no preconditions for renewing negotiations, and expects the Palestinians to present no preconditions of their own. However, Netanyahu will emphasize Israel's demand that as part of any peace agreement the Palestinian recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people and agree to the appropriate security arrangements.
"We will see what he writes and come up with a final answer," the senior official said."In any case, the letter's wording will clarify Israel's will and readiness to advance negotiations with the Palestinians." He added that "the goal is to restart the negotiations rather than exchange letters for protocol."
Last week, a secret meeting was held between Saeb Erekat and Molho. While the two hold occasional phone conversations, last week's session was the first meeting between the two officials in two and a half months. In the meeting, Erekat relayed the content of the letter Abbas intends to pass on to Netanyahu in the coming days.
Molho and Erekat are expected to meet again before the Palestinian delegation arrives for the meeting with Netanyahu.