Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's offer to resume negotiations without preconditions, prolonging the long-standing impasse in the peace process.
The cool reception bodes poorly for hopes of the resumption of peace talks between the Palestinians and Netanyahu, who fortified his ruling coalition last week by bringing in the main opposition party.
Netanyahu's alliance with the centrist Kadima Party raised speculation that he might make a more generous proposal to the Palestinians now that he no longer has to rely on hard-line nationalists to keep his governing coalition intact.
Netanyahu's proposal, as well as Israel's demands for security arrangements that would need to be agreed upon as part of any final peace deal, were presented in an official letter delivered to Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday by the prime minister's special envoy for peace talks, attorney Yitzhak Molcho.
Netanyahu's letter was in response to one he received last month from Abbas, in which the Palestinian leader stated his grievances over the collapse of peace talks in 2010 and laid out his parameters for renewing negotiations.
After receiving Netanyahu's letter, Abbas briefed members of the Executive Committee of the PLO and the Fatah leadership. The Palestinians rejected Netanyahu's proposal and criticized the contents of his letter, arguing that it did not present any new stances and did not address several of the main long-standing Palestinian demands for the resumption of talks.
In his letter, Abbas had demanded a halt to Israeli settlement construction on land Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, which Palestinians seek for their future state. He also demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners and a resumption of negotiations based on 1967 lines.
A statement issued by the PLO Executive Committee said the letter "doesn't include clear answers about the central issues that are undermining the resumption of the peace process."
Additionally, PLO officials confirmed what Israeli sources have been saying in recent weeks — that Netanyahu would not back down from his stance that negotiations should resume without preconditions, and that any and all issues over which there are disputes between the parties should be discussed during negotiations.
Abbas is expected to consult with Arab leaders in the coming days to draft a formal response to Israel.
Meanwhile, during a heated debate on Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation rejected a private call for the application of Israeli law to all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
If the bill, which was brought forward by MK Miri Regev (Likud), were passed into law by the Knesset, it would mean, in effect, the annexation of Judea and Samaria communities to Israel.
After it emerged that several ministers supported the proposal and that it was likely to pass, Netanyahu intervened and the proposal was rejected in the vote.