Israeli Leader Gives Response Letter to Palestinians

The envoy for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and gave him a letter from Netanyahu. The letter delivery comes a little less than one month after a Palestinian delegation handed over a letter from Abbas.

After the meeting between Israeli envoy Isaac Molho and Abbas, the sides said in a statement released by Netanyahu’s office, “Israel and the Palestinian Authority are committed to achieving peace and the sides hope that the exchange of letters between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu will further this goal.”

On Sunday, a press statement quoted Netanyahu as telling the Israeli Cabinet meeting, “I hope that we will be able to advance the dialogue between the sides in order to resume the diplomatic talks.”

The Israeli government recently added the center-left Kadima party to the ruling coalition. As the leaders of the previous government, Kadima held long-term direct negotiations with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu included “advancing the peace process” as one of the four goals of the new unity coalition.

Israeli statements and spokespeople did not reveal any details of Netanyahu’s letter to Abbas. However, Israeli Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Mark Regev told The Mideast Update last month he felt there was good reason to believe the essence of the letter could contain that Israel is willing to “start negotiations with the Palestinians without any preconditions.”

In addition, Regev anticipated the letter would say that in the framework of those peace talks “all the core issues can be on the table,” that Israel is “willing to move forward on the outline that was presented” by the Mideast Quartet at the end of last year and that “we want to meet and we want to move this process forward.”

The Quartet—consisting of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations—laid out a plan in 2011 that called for a peace agreement by the end of 2012. However, the steps towards that goal outlined by the Quartet’s proposal have only been partially met.

The Palestinians were dismissive of Netanyahu’s letter. According to the WAFA Palestinian news agency, a high-ranking Palestinian committee was upset with Netanyahu’s response to Palestinian demands on freezing settlement construction, a commitment to release Palestinian prisoners—a number of whom have been arrested for terrorism activities—and accepting the 1967 lines as the basis for borders in peace talks.

The Israelis froze most settlement construction for ten months in 2010-11, but have since rejected Palestinian preconditions for resuming peace talks. The Israelis believe all matters should be resolved in negotiations and not beforehand.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, May 13, 2012)