President Mahmoud Abbas is ready to drop his insistence on preconditions for talks with the Israelis even though chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Tuesday that the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) is ready for talks as long as Israel accepts preconditions. These include an end to settlement construction, the release of Palestinian prisoners detained for more than 20 years and the acceptance of the 1967 borders as the basis of discussions.
Although prominent PLO member Ahmed Qorea said recently that the Palestinians could drop the 1967 borders as a precondition, which Abbas has now confirmed, Erekat insisted that all three preconditions are part of the same package.
Commenting on claims in Israeli newspaper Maariv that Benjamin Netanyahu is ready to offer a goodwill gesture by releasing a number of prisoners detained before the Oslo Accords, Erekat said: "We do not need goodwill gestures, all we need is for Israel to carry out its obligations."
Maariv reported on Tuesday morning that President Abbas has said that he is willing to commence direct talks with Israel, but for a limited time. He made his statement following reports of a phone call with the US secretary of state in which John Kerry told him that Netanyahu is ready to negotiate the final status issues.
According to the newspaper, sources involved in talks with Kerry said that Netanyahu is preparing to release a number of prisoners while Abbas has dropped the 1967 border precondition, contradicting what Erekat has insisted. Kerry is interested, it is claimed, in giving each side something so that the two leaders do not lose face and can return to the negotiating table. The secretary of state is due to visit the region later this week to meet Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian officials. He is expected to make a "meaningful" announcement during the trip.