The governments of Israel and Palestine have issued a rare joint statement in which they affirm they are both “committed to achieving peace and the sides hope that the exchange of letters between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu will further this goal.”
An envoy sent by Netanyahu delivered a letter to Abbas on Saturday. The letter is a response to the letter written by President Abbas, delivered to Netanyahu last month, in which he laid out his commitment to negotiations, before requesting some demands. Although details of Netanyahu’s letter were not immediately available, sources say that Netanyahu has rejected Palestinian demands that Israel stop settlement building, which is an issue of major contention. Abbas’ letter also called for the release of all Palestinian political prisoners; since last month almost 2000 prisoners have undertaken a hunger strike to protest their detention, which has been denounced by rights groups as racist, unnecessary and detains Palestinians without charge or access to legal aid. A report by Hamas’ Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya, said that Egyptian negotiators, which negotiates with Israel on behalf of Palestine, had made “important development[s] concerning the demands of the prisoners.”
Although some have charged Netanyahu with ruining hopes of a two-state solution, on 8 May, he joined with centrist party Kadima, which advocates a two-state solution and has been critical of Israeli policy in the territories. Before receiving the letter, Abbas reportedly called US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who urged the resumption of negotiations. On Sunday, the PLO convened to examine the letter. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization told Reuters, “The content of [Netanyahu's] letter did not represent grounds for returning to negotiations.” This can only mean that Netanyahu has rejected some, if not all, of the Palestinian’s requests.