Officials in the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Thursday dismissed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s comments that he would be willing to visit Ramallah to meet with PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas in order to restart peace talks.
Quoted by Kol Yisrael radio, the PA’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, responded to the comments and said that Netanyahu is “the prime minister of the settlers”.
He further accused Netanyahu of working to eliminate the two-state solution and claimed his words were empty ones intended only for purposes of public relations.
Another senior Fatah member, Jamal Mohaisen, was quoted by Kol Yisrael as having said that Netanyahu is not welcome in Ramallah and there is no point in a meeting with him unless he really desires to “end the occupation”.
Mohaisen added that Netanyahu did not formally inform the leadership in Ramallah of his desire to visit, and said his declaration was meant for international ears.
Speaking Tuesday to a group of women from the Women Wage Peace activist group, Netanyahu declared he was ready to resume direct talks with the Palestinians.
"I have no preconditions for negotiations. I am ready now to go to Ramallah or any other place in order to meet and hold direct negotiations without preconditions,” he said.
"We want to conduct negotiations with the Palestinians," he continued. "The solution is two states for two peoples – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the national state of the Jewish People."
"If you intend to meet with Abu Mazen [PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas], tell him that I am ready to meet if he is," Netanyahu concluded.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday responded to Netanyahu’s comments and said he believes peace talks can be re-launched.
"I believe there is a chance and I think it is imperative we have not lost sight of that issue," Kerry said in an interview with MSNBC.
Noting Netanyahu's comments, Kerry voiced hope that there will be a way forward, but added, "Let's wait and see what happens. I think we have to get through the next weeks before we start talking about the rest of the agenda."
France has recently sought to bring the sides back to the negotiating table, saying it was working on a possible resolution at the UN that would set negotiating parameters and establish a time period, possibly 18 months, to complete talks.
While international pressure has been mounting on Israel to resume talks, it has been PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas who has continuously imposed preconditions on peace talks. He recently did so again, demanding that Israel stop construction in Judea and Samaria, release terrorist prisoners and hold talks for a period of no more than a year.