Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he was ready to engage with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a Middle East peace agreement if he proposes “anything promising or positive.”
Abbas, speaking to Reuters after Netanyahu announced a grand coalition that will strengthen the Israeli leader’s hand, said Netanyahu had to realise that Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank were destroying hopes of peace and must cease.
Abbas said it was still too early to comment directly on the new Israeli coalition, which saw Israel’s centrist opposition Kadima party join Netanyahu’s government.
Meanwhile, the Knesset on Wednesday approved by 71 votes to 23 an agreement between Netanyahu and the Kadima party to form Israel’s seventh national unity government.
The move puts Netanyahu at the helm of one of Israel’s largest ruling coalitions ever with an overwhelming 94 votes in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament.
Immediately after the deal was approved, Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz was sworn in as a minister within the premier’s office.
He will also serve as one of Netanyahu’s vice prime ministers. The agreement between Netanyahu and Mofaz, who took over leadership of the centre-right Kadima only six weeks ago, was announced in the early hours of Tuesday.
While in opposition, Kadima had blamed Netanyahu for the failure of Palestinian peace talks.
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz said resuming negotiations that have been stalled for 18 months was an “iron condition” of his decision to join the government.
Abbas sent a letter last month to Netanyahu that was widely viewed as an ultimatum, setting out parametres for the stalled talks to resume.
Netanyahu is expected to reply this week.
Abbas said he had no intention of letting his people take up arms against the Israelis, but he would be ready to renew his unilateral push for international recognition of statehood at the United Nations if there was no breakthrough.
“If there is anything promising or positive of course we will engage,” he said, speaking in his headquarters in Ramallah, the administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority.