By Avi Issacharoff
More than two years ago, the Times of Israel reports here for the first time, top PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo held a series of meetings with the PM’s peace envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, and ultimately met at length with Netanyahu himself, to discuss new negotiations. The prime minister seemed ready to restart talks on the basis of pre-1967 lines, but then discontinued the contacts
RAMALLAH — Israel and the Palestinian Authority tried to conduct backchannel negotiations, or at least initiate them, in late 2010 and early 2011 in a series of secret meetings between the prime minister’s envoy, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, and the head of PLO Executive Committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo. Abed Rabbo revealed these contacts in an interview with this correspondent here last week.
According to Abed Rabbo, during the conversations, which culminated in a meeting between him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Molcho’s house in central Israel, Netanyahu seemed ready to renew negotiations within the framework of two states based on the June 4, 1967, lines. But the prime minister subsequently backed away from the contacts and the channel was discontinued.
Abed Rabbo said he and Netanyahu met for two-and-a-half hours in mid-February 2011, and mentioned — but did not negotiate over — various final status issues, including borders, Jerusalem and refugees. There had been no further contact since that meeting, Abed Rabbo said.
“The meeting with the prime minister occurred in mid-February, I think on the 15th,” Abed Rabbo recounted, beginning a detailed account of the contacts. “It was held in Molcho’s house in Caesarea. There were only four people present: Bibi, me, Molcho, and his wife. However, there were a series of meetings beforehand — I’d say 10 — between me and an envoy for the prime minister. The meetings were held in Jerusalem, again in Molcho’s house there. We discussed all the issues. But I sat and demanded in those meetings that Israel present its map for a two-state solution concept, and publicly declare its willingness to speak about the 1967 lines as the framework for the meetings. Molcho was not prepared to present a map and the meetings were truly exhausting, a lot of chatter without agreements. They were kept secret until now, actually. The only ones who knew about them on the Palestinian side were Abu Mazen (the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas) and Salam Fayyad (the Palestinian prime minister). (Saeb) Erekat (the head of the Palestinian negotiating team) was not in the know.