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No explanation given: Palestinian PM skips Netanyahu meeting

Looking ahead, Palestinian leaders face few appealing options for advancing their agenda, which has been sidelined by Iran and the US elections.

By Correspondent / April 18, 2012

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (r.) shakes hands with Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat during their meeting in Jerusalem on April 17. A Palestinian delegation met Netanyahu on Tuesday, delivering a letter from PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Courtesy of Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Reuters

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Tel Aviv

Expectations of the first Israeli-Palestinian summit in nearly two years were dashed yesterday when Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was a no-show at the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the latest sign of dysfunction in public diplomacy between the sides.

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What did happen at Mr. Netanyahu’s residence is that chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat delivered a letter from PA President Mahmoud Abbas. An Israeli response is expected in the coming weeks.

Analysts see the correspondence as an effort by Mr. Abbas to tread water in the face of a handful of less attractive alternatives to the current impasse, such as backing a third intifada or dissolving the PA – a move that would remove what many Palestinians see as a façade for Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

“He’s groping in the dark… He is trying to give the impression that he’s doing something,” says Ofer Salzburg. “When he looks at his options, they see something that either seems not to be feasible, or they come at such a high price that they are intolerable.”

Palestinian agenda on the world's back burner

The Palestinian agenda has been relegated to the back burner in the six months since the Palestinians failed in an appeal for membership to the United Nations Security Council, as attention turned to rising tensions between Israel and Iran, escalating fighting in Syria, and the 2012 US presidential race.

In comparison, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s domestic political standing appears strong because of his activity on Iran and because no opposition politicians have gained traction.

Rumors of the Fayyad-Netanyahu meeting raised expectations for the highest-level talks in 20 months, but the Israelis said that Mr. Fayyad had never confirmed his participation even though Palestinian officials had said he might come. There was no immediate comment from the Palestinians and analysts point out that Fayyad has in the past stayed out of the negotiations, so such a meeting would have been a first.


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