The national unity government has created a new opportunity to move the peace process ahead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a letter he sent Abbas on Saturday night.
Netanyahu added that he wants to restart negotiations as soon as possible. Ever since taking office, Netanyahu has told U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that he could not advance the peace process because of the composition of his coalition.
Clinton, who spoke with Netanyahu last week told him that with Kadima now part of the coalition, she was waiting to see how he would move the diplomatic process forward.
Netanyahu's letter to Abbas was delivered to PA headquarters in Ramallah by his special envoy Isaac Molho, who met with Abbas for 90 minutes.
Following the meeting the two issued a joint statement saying that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are obligated to achieve peace, and that the parties hope the exchange of letters between Netanyahu and Abbas will contribute to this end. Molho's meeting with Abbas was in fact a reciprocal visit; three weeks ago PA negotiations chief Saeb Erekat and the head of the Palestinian intelligence Majed Faraj met with Netanyahu and delivered a letter from Abbas. In that letter, Abbas accused Netanyahu of weakening the PA.
A source who saw the letter that Netanyahu sent to Abbas said it included an official pledge by Netanyahu, for the first time in an official state document, to establish a demilitarized Palestinian state in keeping with the principle of a two-state solution.
Netanyahu declared his support for such a solution in a speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, as well as when he addressed the U.S. Congress in May 2011. However, he has never brought the matter to a cabinet vote nor had he set it down in an official document, until now.
Abbas met with the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee and the Fatah central committee on Sunday, with regard to Netanyahu's letter. After the meeting the PLO executive committee released a statement that said Netanyahu's letter contained no clear answers to essential issues: first and foremost a halt to construction in the settlements and East Jerusalem, recognition of the 1967 borders and the release of prisoners.
A member of the Fatah central committee, Mohammed Shtayeh, who was present at Sunday's meetings, said Netanyahu's letter contained no new proposals or ideas.
Despite Palestinian disappointment with the letter, they did not reject it outright.
The Palestinian leadership will decide its next moves after consulting with the Arab countries and the PA's friends worldwide, Abbas said on Sunday at the central committee meeting.
The United States is pressing Abbas to use the letters as a means of moving toward direct talks with Israel. The Americans reportedly would like to see a resumption of the talks between Molho and Erekat, which took place in January in Amman, under the patronage of King Abdullah of Jordan.
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