Meeting Monday evening with about 10 Jewish leaders, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas endorsed Prof. Alan Dershowitz’s formula for returning to talks with Israel, participants said.
Abbas also told Jewish leaders that his U.N. speech would show greater sensitivity to Jewish and Israeli concerns.
All top Jewish organizational leaders declined to participate in the Abbas meeting, reportedly at the request of the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has discouraged Jewish meetings with Abbas until he gives up demanding a settlement freeze as a precondition for returning to talks.
Well, we needn’t worry about that any longer.
Both Abbas and his senior negotiator, Saeb Erekat, reacted with keen interest to a proposal that Dershowitz first made in January – that Abbas agree to resume negotiations as long as Israel freezes settlements once the talks start.
No Jewish leader at the Monday meeting proposed a freeze on Arab construction in the PA, to coincide with freezing Jewish construction.
Abbas signed a copy of the proposal, and Dershowitz said he would make the case again to Israel that it should agree to its terms.
Think of it as a holiday gift for the half million or so settlers in Judea and Samaria, who would be given, once again, the opportunity to live in more intimate quarters as their families keep growing.
The last time Israel suspended settlement building for 10 months, in 2010, it took Abbas nine months to return to talks, and he left as soon as the freeze was over.
Under Dershowitz’s formula, Abbas would be obliged to be at the table as soon as the freeze began.
Timing is everything.
The meeting was under the auspices of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. The center was established by Slim Fast Foods former Chairman S. Daniel Abraham and the late Utah Congressman Wayne Owens.
Perhaps those crammed quarters in the frozen settlements won’t seem as crammed if they all consumed more Slim Fast…
Among those who did attend the meeting, besides Big Idea Man Dershowitz, were CMEP director Robert Wexler—who is a top Jewish surrogate for President Obama, and Peter Joseph, who heads the Israel Policy Forum.
On July 13 the Israel Policy Forum sent a letter signed by 41 prominent American Jewish leaders and philanthropists that urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to adopt the Levy commission’s findings, which legalized the vast majority of Jewish outposts east of the “green line.”
Turns out Dershowitz was the right-winger in that room…
Dershowitz told Haaretz that the PA president promised to make “a positive statement” about the connection between Israel and the Jewish people during his Thursday address to the United Nations General Assembly.
Participants described Abbas as emphasizing what he said was the urgent need to return to talks with Israel because of protests and fighting roiling the Arab world and because of increased tensions with Iran. He asked his Jewish interlocutors why Israel was demanding that he recognize Israel as a Jewish state when he had repeatedly recognized its legitimacy.
He was told that insensitivity to Jewish claims helped fuel the demand, and was reminded that last year in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, he noted only Muslim and Christian claims.
Abbas told the group to watch for his speech to the General Assembly, scheduled for Thursday at noon, saying that he would also note Jewish claims.
The office of the Palestinian representative in Washington would only confirm that the meeting with the Jewish leaders took place and that aspects of what was discussed would be featured in Abbas’ speech.
Among the Jewish leaders who declined to attend, representatives of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee either did not return requests for comment or declined comment.
The Israeli Embassy did not return a request for comment.
According to Haaretz, Abbas has assured President Obama’s Administration that he would not press for a General Assembly vote on the Palestinian request for non-state recognition before the upcoming November 6 presidential elections.
The JTA’s Ron Kampeas contributed to this report.