Avi Issacharoff
Haaretz (Analysis)
September 23, 2009 - 12:00am

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday night that the renewal of negotiations "depends on a definition of the negotiating process." His remarks came at end of his summit meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York intended to jump-start talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Abbas said "that means basing [the talks] on recognizing the need to withdraw to the 1967 borders."

The Palestinian leader again called on Israel to fulfill its obligations, particularly that Israel completely stop construction in West Bank settlements, including accommodation of natural growth. He said the Palestinian Authority had advanced negotiations with the Olmert government, "when we defined the occupied territories as the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem."

He added the PA position was reiterated at the trilateral summit meeting Tuesday and in the Palestinian leader's separate meeting with Obama.

Abbas said his words represented the Palestinian position before the summit and remained their official position.

PA sources argued Obama's statements Tuesday did not do damage to the Palestinian position, since they didn't constitute an explicit call for the resumption of talks but rather emphasized the need for renewed negotiations. They added that the American call for negotiating teams to come to Washington do not involve resumption of negotiations because the talks would be conducted on two separate tracks and not in three-way talks.

However, Obama's call for an immediate resumption of negotiations between the parties and his public rebuke of the Palestinians, saying they should do more to advance the talks, runs contrary to the position of the PA, which has repeatedly insisted on a total freeze in construction in the settlements before final status peace talks could be resumed.

The Palestinians even agreed to Tuesday's meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu on the contention that it did not involve peace talks or even talk over their resumption.

Abbas has been the object of harsh criticism for going to Washington in what was seen as an apparent surrender by the PA and the Obama administration to the Israeli position, but the criticism was moderated by the argument that negotiations would not begin after the summit due to Israel's failure to meet Palestinian and American conditions.

Hamas condemned the summit, saying that the very fact that it took place constitutes surrender to Israeli and American conditions.


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