President Mahmoud Abbas' offer to talk to Israel if it freed prisoners and allows more arms to Palestinian security forces represents a retreat from his previous demand for a settlement freeze, Palestinian political analysts told Ma'an.It seems likely that the bizarre unilateral release of the bodies of scores of terrorists by Israel, touted as a "confidence building measure," was tied to this.
On Friday, Abbas said he had informed Israeli envoys he would open a dialogue with Israel in exchange for arms allowances and released detainees, but stressed it wouldn't amount to full negotiations, reiterating his insistence on a total freeze on settlements.
But Chair of the Al-Quds University Humanitarian Department Imad Abu Kishik said the president's formulation was the wrong way round.
It is more important to agree the principle of establishing a Palestinian state on pre-1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, while other details, such as arms and releasing prisoners, will follow from this, he told Ma'an.
"Negotiations will be pointless if there is no agreement on the main principle," he said.
Abu Kishik said he believes Abbas is trying to meet international pressure to find a glimmer of hope for negotiations with Israel.
Palestinian analyst Talal Ukal said Abbas' stance "represented a retreat" in the Palestinian Authority's long-standing position that talks cannot resume without a settlement freeze.
Meanwhile, Saeb Erekat is taking pains to say that even when the PLO talks to Israel they should never be considered "negotiations."
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sunday that while he has held secret talks with Israeli envoys, any return to full negotiations will depend on a full settlement freeze.Sounds like the PLO is trying to have it both ways - telling the West that they are willing to "talk" while telling their own people that they will never "negotiate" without the preconditions they added around 2008 or 2009 and additional ones since then.
Erekat said he had discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's adviser Yitzhak Molcho while he delivered a letter from President Mahmoud Abbas to Netanyahu on April 17.
He described another meeting on May 7 when he went to receive Netanyahu's reply. Officially, Molcho delivered his premier's response to Abbas and Erekat in Ramallah on May 12. Meanwhile, Erekat suffered a mild heart attack on May 8 and said he was thus unable to hold more talks.
Israeli daily Haaretz reported Sunday that the envoys had held six or seven meetings in the last two months, prior to Erekat's heart attack, on the exchange of communiques, and Palestinian requests for goodwill gestures from Israel.
Erekat told Ma'an the Palestinian position remains based on a full settlement freeze and recognition of a Palestinian state on 1967 borders as the basis of full negotiations.
"Otherwise, we will end up repeating the previous rounds of negotiations," he said.
And note that even this limited, symbolic "talking" is being slammed by mainstream Palestinian Arab analysts as caving to international pressure.
Which side wants peace again?