Palestinian prime minster: a “slim chance” for resumption of negotiations if Gantz defeats Netanyahu in March elections

Khaled Yacoub Oweis

The National  /   February 16, 2020

Mohammed Shtayyeh tells sympathetic Israeli audience Israel contributed to Hamas split by reneging on Oslo Accords.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh sought on Sunday to deflect Israeli criticism that the split with Gaza’s rulers Hamas undermines the Palestinians’ ability to run their affairs.

Mr Shtayyeh was addressing Israelis who were sympathetic to the Palestinian cause at the Munich Security Conference.

He dismissed concerns by the Israeli audience members that the Palestinians risked repeating history by their rejection of the peace plan announced by US President Donald Trump last month.

In 1947, the Palestinians rejected UN resolution 181 that called for the partition of Palestine.

Mr Shtayyeh said Israel contributed to the Hamas-Palestinian Authority split in 2005 by reneging on its commitments in the Oslo Accords.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is so committed to keeping the Palestinians divided,” he said. “This is the rule for any colonial regime.

“It is our responsibility to remain united and we are going in that direction.”

Mr Shtayyeh said positive understandings had been reached with Hamas last year on the need for Palestinian elections, which had not taken place since 2006.

Among the Israeli audience members were Amos Gilead, a former high ranking Israeli defence official, and Knesset member Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh of the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz, Mr Netanyahu’s main challenger in the March 2 Israeli election.

Mr Shtayyeh said Arab states remained committed to the 2002 Arab Peace Plan, which offered Israel recognition if a land-for-peace agreement were implemented.

“In any negotiations you need terms of reference. The problem is that we and Israelis are reading from different book,” he said.

Mr Shtayyeh said there was a “slim chance” for resumption of negotiations if Mr Gantz defeated Mr Netanyahu in March, after two inconclusive polls in the last year.

He said Mr Gantz would need to tell his countrymen in straightforward terms that Israel had made a set of commitments to restore Palestinian land and that it should honour them.

“We are open to serious negotiations,” Mr Shtayyeh said. “If Gantz is serious about moving things forward there is a chance.

“There is a slim chance for him to say I am ready to respect what had been presented to us.”

Khaled Yacoub Oweis – journalist, Abu Dhabi