Abbas seeks US border input for Palestinian state
JERUSALEM — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants the United States to spell out its views on the borders of a Palestinian state before resuming direct negotiations with Israel, an adviser said yesterday, raising a condition that Israel is unlikely to accept.
President Obama’s envoy, George Mitchell, has been mediating low-key indirect talks for weeks, but no progress has been reported. Israel and the United States believe direct negotiations should resume, but the Palestinians are reluctant.
Talks ended in late 2008 without agreement on an Israeli proposal for a Palestinian state that would comprise Gaza, about 95 percent of the West Bank, and parts of Jerusalem, with exchanges of land to make up the difference and a corridor through Israel linking the two territories. Israel also agreed to take in some refugees, but not the millions Palestinians count.
Detailing the offer, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has said publicly on at least two occasions that Abbas turned it down because he was not willing to compromise over Jerusalem. Both sides claim a key holy site in the Old City.
Abbas has insisted that the negotiations must resume with the Israeli offer back on the table, but the current leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has withdrawn it. Netanyahu has agreed to the principle of a Palestinian state but refuses to detail his ideas about key issues like borders before direct negotiations resume.
Abbas is in a precarious political position, ruling only the West Bank after the Islamic militant group Hamas overran Gaza three years ago, while facing Hamas challenges and internal party squabbles in the West Bank. His weakness limits his ability to compromise in peace negotiations.
Likewise, Netanyahu heads a hard-line ruling coalition that would not endorse concessions made by the previous government.