Israelis, Palestinians meet in Jerusalem Fayyad a no-show

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with representatives of the Palestinian Authority at his Jerusalem office April 17, but Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad pulled out of the meeting at the last minute, torpedoing what was set to be the highest-level talks between the sides in nearly two years.

Senior Fatah official Saeb Erekat and the head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service, Majid Faraj, were among the delegates from the P.A. who attended. They did not give any reason for Fayyad’s absence, bu the Palestinian news agency Ma’an suggested it had something to do with a pending hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

The Palestinians portrayed the meeting as a last-ditch effort to salvage peace talks before the U.S. election season.

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority are committed to peace,” a statement released after the meeting read.

The Palestinian officials handed Netanyahu a letter from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas outlining the Palestinians’ conditions for jump-starting the peace process. The prime minister is expected to reply within the next couple of weeks.

The meeting lasted a little over an hour.

Israeli officials said the missive delivered by the Palestinians does not include any new or surprising details. They said Netanyahu aide and chief negotatiator Yitzhak Molcho is expected to deliver a letter to the Palestinians in about two weeks outlining Israel’s position on the peace process.

Substantive negotiations collapsed more than three years ago. The Palestinians say there can be no negotiations as long as Israel continues to build in territories they claim for their future state. Israel says talks should resume without preconditions.

The letter says Israel must freeze all settlement construction and accept its pre-1967 war boundaries as the basis for the borders of a future Palestine, with mutually agreed upon modifications.

Abbas has said in recent days the letter also accuses Israel of undermining the Palestinian Authority, his autonomy government that rules in parts of the West Bank.

Speaking to reporters in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Abbas said he was hopeful for progress.

“We will tell [Netanyahu] that he should commit to stop settlements and to recognize the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders and then we will return to the negotiating table,” he said. “He has intensified the settlements, and the solution was to send him the letter in which we stress the status quo cannot continue, and we can’t accept it forever.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Abbas is not interested in reaching a peace agreement with Israel and accused the Palestinians of blaming Israel for their woes instead of working to solve their internal problems.