Monday, September 6, 2010

Netanyahu to U.S. congressman: I hope Abbas won't abandon peace process

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed concern Monday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would abandon the peace process, after the latter declared that he would not concede to Israel on a number of core issues and would refuse to continue negotiations should construction resume in West Bank settlements.

Netanyahu told U.S. congressmen Rush Holt, Steven Israel and Congresswoman Debbie Schultz Wasserman during a meeting at his bureau that there were still many issues left to discuss and that direct and continuous negotiations was the only path toward reaching a final peace agreement.

He told the visiting Democrats that he hoped Abbas' comments did not indicate a regression, and reiterated that direct talks without delay could yield a deal with the Palestinians within a year.

Abbas told the East Jerusalem-based Al-Quds al-Araby newspaper earlier Monday that if forced to give in on the issues of refugees or borders, he would "pack my bags and leave".

The Palestinian president also vowed to cut off direct negotiations with Israel if construction were to resume in West Bank settlements and said he would refuse to bring to the table with Netanyahu recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. "Israel can call itself what it likes," Abbas told the East Jerusalem-based newspaper.

"If we want to start negotiations, then we will start with borders and then move to security because borders is important for us and security is important for them [Israel]," the Ramallah-based al-Ayyam daily on Monday cited Abbas as saying from Tripoli, Libya.