RAMALLAH, West Bank – The Obama administration’s troubled attempt to revive Mideast peace talks took another blow Sunday when the Palestinian president rejected the latest U.S. plan to get the sides talking again.
Mahmoud Abbas said a proposed 90-day freeze on Israeli settlement construction wouldn’t get him back to the negotiating table unless it includes east Jerusalem, a condition Israel staunchly opposes.
In Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday, Abbas said any construction freeze must include east Jerusalem “first and foremost,” along with the West Bank.
“If the moratorium does not apply to all Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem, we will not accept it,” Abbas said after consultations with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
The issue of Israeli settlements has bedeviled the latest round of peace talks since their launch in September. They broke down three weeks later when a previous 10-month slowdown on West Bank construction expired.
Since then, the U.S. has been pushing Israel to impose a new, 90-day moratorium to draw the Palestinians back to talks.
To entice Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pro-settlement coalition government, the U.S. has offered a fleet of next-generation stealth warplanes and promises to veto anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations.
Speaking to lawmakers from his Likud Party late Sunday, Netanyahu said he was waiting for the U.S. to put the offer in writing so he could bring it before his Cabinet.
Netanyahu also said the proposed 90-day moratorium was not specifically meant to deal with borders.
“There is no such request and there is no such commitment,” he said. Instead, the sides would discuss “all topics of substance as a whole.”