Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to send a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in which he will call on him to return to the negotiating table promptly and without preconditions.
A senior Israeli official said the letter would be a response to a similar communiqué Abbas plans to send to Netanyahu next week. The Israeli message will stress that Israel wants to resume the talks that took place in the Jordanian capital Amman, under the aegis of Jordan’s King Abdullah and the Quartet of Middle East envoys.
According to media reports this morning, in his letter Netanyahu will write to Abbas that he does not want to lay down any preconditions to negotiations and expects the Palestinians to do the same. He will also write that Israel is willing to discuss all core issues: borders, security arrangements, refugees, water, settlements and Jerusalem.
The senior Israeli official added that the final draft of the letter will only be sent if the corresponding message from Abbas is received in the next few days. “Netanyahu’s letter will be a response to Abbas’s letter,” the senior official said. “We will see what he writes and finalise our response. At any rate, the message will be that Israel is interested and willing to advance the negotiations with the Palestinians. The goal is to jump start the talks and not merely exchange correspondence for the protocol.”
During a press conference that Netanyahu held yesterday to mark the three-year anniversary of his government, he stressed that the Palestinians are those who are refusing to return to the negotiating table. “We want to reach a settlement with the Palestinians because, I don’t want a bi-national state,” Netanyahu stressed. “I also want to insure the survival of a Jewish state. Not only separation but also security…If the Palestinians don’t negotiate now, they will later. I am committed to maintaining the Jewish character of the country.”
The main portion of Netanyahu’s speech, however, focused on Israel’s economic performance over the past three years. “We acted responsibly,” he said, describing the government’s programmes on education, building, and industry that have helped reduce social disparities. During his speech, Netanyahu likened his administration to a tree, drawing one on an electronic whiteboard to illustrate his government’s “remarkably stable economic trunk” — adding that the tree is growing and bearing fruits in its fourth year of governance.