There can be no peace with Israel without first defining the borders of a future Palestinian state, president Mahmud Abbas said on Tuesday.
“Since the creation of Israel, nobody knows what the borders are. We are determined to know our borders and theirs, without that there will be no peace,” he said as Washington’s nine-month deadline for reaching a peace deal expired, leaving the process in tatters.
In a televised address, Abbas laid out his conditions for returning to the crisis-hit peace talks with Israel which have made no progress since they were launched on July 29 last year.
“If we want to extend the negotiations there has to be a release of prisoners … a settlement freeze, and a discussion of maps and borders for three months during which there must be a complete halt to settlement activity,” he said.
The peace talks hit a major stumbling block in late March after Israel refused to comply with a commitment to release 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners, prompting Abbas to resume moves to seek international recognition.
Abbas has repeatedly insisted that Israel release the two dozen detainees plus hundreds more and agree to a freeze on settlement activity.
He has also demanded comprehensive talks on the issue of borders.
But a senior Israeli official said there would be no further talks unless Abbas renounced a reconciliation pact signed last week with Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers, under which the two rival Palestinian administrations would seek to form a new government of technocrats.
“The moment that Mahmud Abbas gives up the alliance with Hamas, a murderous organisation which calls for the destruction of the state of Israel, we will be ready to return immediately to the negotiating table and discuss all subjects,” he told AFP.
On April 24, a day after the unity deal was announced, the Israeli security cabinet said it would not negotiate with any Palestinian government backed by Hamas, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying Abbas would have to choose between peace with the Islamist movement, or peace with Israel.
The timing of the intra-Palestinian unity agreement was criticised as “unhelpful” by Washington, although US officials are understood to have a wait-and-see attitude to the new government, Haaretz newspaper reported.
“It is clear that the administration also has a ‘glass half full’ view of the controversial deal between the two rival Palestinian factions,” the paper said, quoting a top White House adviser who said it was not possible to make peace “with only a part of the Palestinian people.”