Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continues to vacillate on resuming direct negotiations with Israel to create a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan.
Director of the Palestinian Authority government’s media centre - Ghassan Khatib - has described Abbas’s predicament as follows:
“The Palestinians are looking for either an Israeli commitment to a settlement freeze, or a Quartet [European Union, United States, United Nations, and Russia] statement that would be accepted by both sides as a basis for negotiations. We are looking for a settlement freeze according to the definition of Quartet … road map - adopted by the United Nations Security Council - which called for a settlement freeze in all occupied areas including East Jerusalem.”
Mr Ghatib is living in fantasy land.
Israel never accepted the settlement freeze proposed in the Road Map - having raised the issue as one of 14 reservations it made to President Bush after its initial release.
Reservation 9 made by Israel to President Bush stated:
“There will be no involvement with issues pertaining to the final settlement. Among issues not to be discussed: settlement in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (excluding a settlement freeze and illegal outposts), the status of the Palestinian Authority and its institutions in Jerusalem, and all other matters whose substance relates to the final settlement.”
Israel thus made it clear that while it was prepared to discuss a settlement freeze it was not prepared to accept that there be a complete settlement freeze as a binding condition in the Roadmap.
On May 23, 2003, then Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice made the following statement from the White House:
“The roadmap was presented to the Government of Israel with a request from the President that it respond with contributions to this document to advance true peace. The United States Government received a response from the Government of Israel, explaining its significant concerns about the roadmap. The United States shares the view of the Government of Israel that these are real concerns, and will address them fully and seriously in the implementation of the roadmap to fulfil the President’s vision of June 24, 2002.”
On May 25, 2003, the Israeli Cabinet met and by a majority resolved:
“Based on the 23 May 2003 statement of the United States Government, in which the United States committed to fully and seriously address Israel’s comments to the Roadmap during the implementation phase, the Prime Minister announced on 23 May 2003 that Israel has agreed to accept the steps set out in the Roadmap.
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