A senior Israeli diplomatic source has told Israeli daily Israel Hayom that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to make significant progress toward a peace deal, but “everybody knows” that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas won’t allow this.
“U.S. President Barack Obama understands today that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is not interested in reaching an agreement with Israel,” said the official, a regular participant in policy-making.
At the moment the peace process is stalled because of the Palestinian Authority demand for a freeze in Jewish development in Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem. In public statements made in Jerusalem and Ramallah, Obama rejected preconditions for the renewal of peace talks.
Among other demands, Abbas is also insisting that Netanyahu present a map of the final borders of a future Palestinian state. The Prime Minister’s Office strongly rejects this demand, saying borders should be the last core issue discussed. Israel Hayom reports that “Israeli officials believe Abbas is demanding a border map to spark internal controversy in Israel over settlements that would not remain inside the country.”
The senior diplomatic official said that the relationship between Netanyahu and Obama was “very good.” The official said Obama “opened a new page and during his recent trip to Israel proved that he came as a friend.”
The official said that the popular assessment among Israeli officials is that the Obama administration shifted its approach to Israel due to the consequences of the Arab Spring.
“Netanyahu is prepared to reach a true peace agreement, but everyone knows there is no partner for that at this time,” the senior diplomatic official said. He said that while Israel was ready to make concessions and gestures, Abbas is torpedoing the process. The official pointed to Abbas’ attempt to form a unity government with Hamas, a move that would preclude peace negotiations between Israel and Abbas.
The official said he believed that Abbas’ policy was to “stay in place.”
“Abbas saw that after the disengagement [Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005], despite the relative strength he had there with 35,000 fighters against the 4,000 of Hamas, Hamas expelled him,” the official said. “In light of the events taking place in Arab countries in the Middle East, he does not want the same thing to happen in Judea and Samaria.”