WASHINGTON (JTA) — A leading U.S. congressman said he’s "deeply disappointed" that Mahmoud Abbas has not accepted an Israeli offer of unconditional peace talks.
"For the sake of re-establishing an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and helping to create an environment of peace, I call on President Abbas immediately to accept Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposal for unconditional talks on peace," Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said in a statement Tuesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he would meet the Palestinian Authority president "immediately" and "anywhere" to advance the peace process.
"As everyone familiar with Israeli politics knows, Netanyahu has taken a politically courageous and substantively important step in endorsing the idea of ‘two states for two peoples,’ and he has also taken significant steps to ease travel and access in the West Bank by dismantling numerous checkpoints and roadblocks," said Berman, who is the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman.
"Nevertheless, Abbas is demanding that Netanyahu establish a settlement freeze as a condition for a meeting. This is a condition Abbas never required of Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert. Moreover, in the context of bilateral talks, Abbas could raise his settlement concerns directly with Netanyahu — concerns which, Abbas knows, are being discussed intensively between U.S. and Israeli officials."