Israeli President Shimon Peres said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2011 refrained from reaching an agreement with the Palestinian Authority on a framework for peace talks.
“We in fact reached an understanding on nearly all the points,” Peres said of himself and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an interview which Channel 2 aired Tuesday. “Netanyahu had the impression that there was a better offer brought in by Tony Blair,” the representative of the Quartet on the Middle East which consists of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.
According to Channel 2, Peres and Abbas were supposed to meet in 2011 in Amman but the meeting didn’t happen because Netanyahu did not sign off on the framework agreement. The meeting was supposed to take place on July 28, 2011 but Peres cancelled at the last minute, according to a report from that year by Ma’ariv.
Peres said Abbas before the meeting had agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and proceed with a formula that allowed for territory swaps and the retention of Israeli settlement blocs.
“We in fact reached an understanding on almost all the points and we were supposed to summarize and Netanyahu had the impression that there was a better offer brought in by Tony Blair,” Peres said during the interview which Channel 2 taped two months ago and aired as an Independence Day special. “I didn’t think so. He [Netanyahu] said, ‘give it three-four days and we’ll see.’ And I thought that it wasn’t a three-day thing and I didn’t think that Tony Blair could bring a better offer than the one I myself had brought.”
Peres listed several “problems” that he said he had solved in talks with the Abbas.
“Firstly, that there be two states, meaning that there will be a Palestinian state. He [Abbas] needs to agree to a Jewish state and we need to agree to a Palestinian one. In fact, we both agreed on these two things. Secondly, there is the ever-straining refugee problem, lest the return of refugees would undermine the state being a Jewish state. So he accepted the so-called Arab formula. Meaning that the refugee problem would be solved in just and agreed-upon manner.”
Peres, a former leader of the dovish labor party and one of the architects of the 1993 Oslo Accords, was referring to the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 which speaks of a ”just settlement” on the refugee issue.
Asked by Channel 2 presenter Yonit Levy whether he had used maps in talks with Abbas, Peres replied: “We used maps in this regard: in principle. And what does that mean? Instead of talking about the ’67 borders, we spoke about the size of the area, not its borders. Which enables the exchange of territories with entities, the establishment of settlement blocs etc., and to this he agreed.”
Levy asked Peres whether it was accurate to say that he and Abbas “were on the verge of an agreement and Netanyahu stopped it. Is this the situation you are describing?”
Peres provided no reply but said: “To be precise, the settlement we reached was accepted by the prime minister. I was not handling private talks. The prime minister was a partner to every step of the way.”
Levy asked whether Netanyahu “got cold feet.”
“Maybe he really thought there could be a better offer. I do not know. I do not want to pass judgment just like that. At any rate, this is what he told me and I had no doubt… to cast doubt on what he said,” Peres replied.