Palestinian president says he’s ready for confidence-building

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency)

Reuters  /  September 2, 2021

CAIRO – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday he was ready to take confidence-building measures and restore calm in the Palestinian territories though Israel’s actions had made a two-state solution impossible.

Abbas spoke as he met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah in Cairo, days after he held talks with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz in a rare high-level meeting. 

Egypt played a leading role in brokering the ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian Islamist faction Hamas after 11 days of conflict in May in the Gaza Strip, and has since been trying to help reinforce the truce amid occasional renewed flare-ups of violence and to facilitate reconstruction in Gaza.

In Cairo, the three leaders pledged “to work together to refine a vision to activate efforts aimed at resuming negotiations, and work with brothers and partners to revive the peace process”, according to a statement released by Egypt’s presidency.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014 and analysts say there is little prospect of reviving them, partly due to divisions between Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. The PA seeks an independent state in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

In an address at the Cairo talks, Abbas said that although an escalation of Israeli “violations” had made a two-state solution in line with international law unattainable, the PA was committed to peaceful methods.

“We renew our readiness to work in this stage to prepare the atmosphere by the application of confidence-building steps that include achieving comprehensive calm in Palestinian lands,” he said, according to a text published by the state-run Palestinian news agency Wafa.

After Abbas met with Gantz, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett quickly played down the idea of any move towards peace negotiations, though Israel also agreed to lend the Palestinian Authority $150 million. 

Bennett’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, cast doubt on Wednesday on the prospects for a two-state solution, saying such a move could destabilize the far-right Bennett’s cross-partisan coalition. 

Reporting by Mohamed Waly in Cairo and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; writing by Aidan Lewis Editing by Mark Heinrich