Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to freeze construction in East Jerusalem or to permit that issue on the negotiating table is a leitmotif throughout Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s new interview in the Wall Street Journal: he keeps returning to it, citing it as the obstacle in the way of direct negotiations on a final settlement. An example:
Netanyahu says, ‘I call on Abbas to negotiate, but he has to understand that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, that’s not up for discussion. The refugees—there will be no talk about them at all. He has to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.’ So who is putting conditions. I’m not putting them. He is putting conditions.
The “refugees” issue—the so-called right of return, which may be the one topic even more toxic to the Israelis than East Jerusalem—appears to be something Abbas could give up. “We are serious in building peace with you,” he tells the Journal, when asked what his message for Israel is, “in building a Palestinian state that lives side by side with Israel on the ’67 borders in peace and stability. … If we reach a final solution, we will drop all kinds of other demands.” (My emphasis.) A call for two states frankly implies no right of return anyway. We could be persuaded away from it, Abbas seems to say, but only if our state is delineated by “the ’67 borders.” Those borders locate East Jerusalem in Palestine.
Earlier: Op-Eds Duel Over Netanyahu’s Freeze