The Palestinians dug in ahead of a crucial meeting Thursday with Washington's Mideast envoy, saying they can't be expected to continue peace talks unless Israel reverses a decision to lift restrictions on West Bank settlement construction.
President Barack Obama's emissary, George Mitchell, is making a secretive last-minute attempt to rescue the negotiations. He was to travel to Abbas' West Bank headquarters Thursday, after meeting with Israeli leaders on Wednesday. Mitchell said after talks with Netanyahu that he is undaunted by what he described as "bumps in the road," but offered no glimpse of a possible compromise.
Abbas advisers on Wednesday stopped short of posing an ultimatum, but signaled they would accept nothing less than an extension of the moratorium. Veteran Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said Israel should be blamed for any breakdown of the negotiations if it insists on expanding settlements on lands claimed by the Palestinians for their state.
Abbas ready for 'historic decision'
Abbas on Wednesday was quoted as saying, without elaborating, that he is ready to make a "historic decision" when Arab League foreign ministers meet Monday in Cairo to review the negotiations. It wasn't clear whether Abbas meant he was ready to quit the talks or whether he was simply trying to create some last-minute leverage.
On Saturday, Abbas will consult top officials from his Fatah Party and the Palestine Liberation Organization's decision-making body before sitting down with the Arab officials.
Hanna Amireh, a member of the PLO body, said there was widespread opposition to resuming talks without a settlement curb.
"The consensus is that since the entire world is in favor of a Palestinian state and against settlements, then let us throw this problem in the face of the world and see what they can do about it," Amireh said.
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