TEL AVIV (JTA) — A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied a claim that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas offered to begin secret, direct talks with Netanyahu three times but was rejected.
In a statement to JTA Tuesday, Netanyahu spokesman David Keyes flatly denied the assertion made a day earlier by Gershon Baskin, who has acted as an unofficial conduit between the Netanyahu government and Palestinian leadership.
“There is no truth whatsoever to the claim that President Abbas offered to begin secret direct talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Keyes said. “Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to call on President Abbas to meet anytime, anywhere, without pre-conditions. Unfortunately, President Abbas has refused.”
Baskin told JTA that he personally delivered the requests from Abbas over the past three years.
“Netanyahu is paying lip service to the public and the world because Abbas has offered Netanyahu on three opportunities a request to enter into secret, direct negotiations,” Baskin told JTA.
On Tuesday, Baskin told JTA, “There are at least three times I know of because I sent the messages for Abbas.”