Yasser Abed Rabbo reveals he was a secret channel for talks with Israel in 2010-2011

It’s hard to understand what the purpose is, of this revelation.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a former spokesperson for the DFLP who’s now the Executive Secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] told Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff he personally took part in an hitherto-unrevealed series of talks with Yizhak Molcho, the negotiations adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, which ended with an inconclusive meeting with Netanyahu himself in mid-February 2011.

Issacharoff reported, in his story [published by the Times of Israel, here] that “The Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment on the contents of this report”.

The Issacharoff story does not explain how the talks began, in late 2010 [not long after an Obama effort to restart direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations by a meeting at the White House in September 2010, which were suspended after the IDF launched its major Gaza operation, Cast Lead, on 27 December 2008…] Nor does it explain exactly how Issacharoff got the story, or why Abed Rabbo decided to speak out now.

But these contacts ended with the mid-February 2011 meeting.

Abed Rabbo told Issacharoff that he waited a full year to hear back from Netanyahu:
“He said to me, ‘Give me two days and I’ll get back to you.’ We said goodbye. He asked me to send his regards to Abu Mazen. And from that point on, I didn’t hear from Bibi or Molcho. A year later [i.e., in or around February 2012], I relayed him a message through a third party that I’ve been sitting waiting by the phone for a year, but Netanyahu did not respond”.

It was not long after that effort a year later  to re-contact Netanyahu that Abed Rabbo and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad both refused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ order to take a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem on 17 April 2012 — a still-puzzling episode that we posted about on our sister blog, UN-Truth, here. In that post, we noted that the Jerusalem Post reported that Fayyad’s “last-minute cancellation may cast new light on divisions within the Palestinian political establishment” …

Much of Issacharoff’s report makes for uncomfortable reading.

Abed Rabbo told Issacharoff that his meeting with Netanyahu “did indeed take place [at Molcho’s hose in Caesarea on Feb 15 2011]”, and:

“It stretched on for about two and a half hours. He began speaking, and unfortunately, from the outset I feared he was trying to bullshit me. This was classic Netanyahu. He spoke about 3,000 years of Jewish history, about his father and what he saw with his own eyes. When he finished his preface, I turned to him and said, ‘Let me tell you something — we don’t trust you and we don’t believe you. This is the general feeling among Palestinians and this is my feeling also.’

I said to him that speaking about 3,000 years of Jewish history will not get us anywhere. I care about what is now and what was 60 years ago. My memories and my family, they’re from Jaffa, where I was born. ‘Do you want us to start to speak about that?’ I asked, ‘Let’s leave it and move forward.’

“Netanyahu literally jumped up. ‘You were born in Jaffa?’ he asked. And he looked at me and said, “I promise you that after all this is over, I’ll allow you to return to live in Jaffa.’

“I smiled. I told him I’m not asking for a house for myself in Jaffa but for a homeland — a homeland for my people. And Bibi became serious again. He spoke about how vital the Jordan Valley was for Israeli security, and noted the possibility that Iranian tanks could cross the Jordan. I told him that I have a solution for this. I am always cynical — even my wife gets upset with me when I’m too cynical — but I couldn’t help but respond in this manner. ‘You know that the Jordan Valley and the river aren’t barriers to Iranian armored columns, and the only thing that can protect us from an Iranian invasion is the Jordanian mountains east of the river. That’s the only line of defense. So let’s conquer Jordan together and we’ll build a defensive line there.’

He said to me, ‘I’m not joking.’ And I explained that this won’t get us anywhere. In the meeting he didn’t mention the ‘Israel as the Jewish national state’ issue

I said to him that I was in the secret talks with [prime minister Ehud] Olmert and he showed us the map. ‘We were ready for land swaps of 1.9 percent and Olmert demanded 6.4%…“Bibi jumped up again and said, “I never saw any file’ … I spoke to him about Jerusalem and about the refugees. I told him that Arafat already told [president] Bill Clinton at Camp David that his ultimate preference was to solve the refugee problem in Lebanon.

He asked me about the idea of a joint committee to manage issues related to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem — as Olmert had suggested — and I laughed and said that I see it looks like they did leave him a file, and he laughed. I told him it’s a good idea to discuss it. In the end I said to him, ‘If you want to start something serious, if you agree to the 1967 borders as a basis, including Jerusalem, then we can talk about the other things.’

“He asked if we were ready to start negotiations immediately. I said yes. He asked who would be in the Palestinian delegation for the negotiations, and I told him that if he agrees to the principle I presented him, I would need a five-minute telephone call and I would return to him with the names. “He turned to Molcho and said to him, ‘You lead the Israeli delegation, along with two others — you know who.’ He asked me if these were all our demands and I said yes. He agreed that we needed a convenient place to speak, a secluded place where talks would be conducted that could last between two weeks and two months. He asked me to prepare the Palestinian delegation and I asked him if he agreed with what I had proposed. He said to me, ‘Give me two days and I’ll get back to you.’ We said goodbye. He asked me to send his regards to Abu Mazen. And from that point on, I didn’t hear from Bibi or Molcho. A year later, I relayed him a message through a third party that I’ve been sitting waiting by the phone for a year, but Netanyahu did not respond.”

Issacharoff worte that “The channel between Abed Rabbo and Netanyahu has not been revealed until now. Direct conversations between Abbas and the prime minister in September 2010 preceded it, but ended without any results after Israel refused to extend the freeze on settlement building. Another round of conversations between Molcho, former Netanyahu aide Yoaz Hendel, and Saeb Erekat began in January 2012 and lasted for 20 days, this time in Amman. This too did not create a breakthrough that would lead to the renewal of direct negotiations between the two leaders…[Within days,] US Secretary of State John Kerry is supposed to land in Israel, as part of his efforts to renew the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians”.

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