The Quartet – which comprises the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia – will hold separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on Wednesday, the first contact of any kind that the two sides have had in 10 months.Or, as Ha'aretz wrote:
But hopes for a breakthrough, never high to begin with, suffered a further setback as it emerged that Mr Abbas intended to hold Israel to a pledge made three years ago to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners as a gesture to his moderate Fatah party.
Desperate to wring concessions of his own, Mr Abbas has reminded Israel of a promise made by its former prime minister, Ehud Olmert, to follow up any prisoner swap with Hamas by a similar deal with Fatah. Ahmad Tibi, an Israeli Arab MP with close links to Palestinian officials, said that Mr Abbas would now have no choice but to make fulfilment of the Olmert agreement a condition for renewing talks.
At the Knesset on Monday, MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al ) said that Israel should not be surprised if the two current conditions the Palestinians have set for restarting talks - a halt to construction in the settlements and recognition of the 1967 borders as a basis for negotiations - become three, the third being the prisoner release.
Of course, Olmert's conditional promises in the context of 2008 negotiations that Abbas himself broke off are meaningless today, as they were not an official Israeli offer (and from the context it sounds like it was meant to help Abbas give incentives to Hamas to release Shalit, something he didn't do.)
Over the summer, Abbas had three other preconditions that may still be in force: that the EU supports for reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah, that the EU supports the UN stunt, and a statement from the EU that the statehood stunt is not a contradiction to negotiations.
The upshot is that Abbas and his cronies are continuing their strategy of saying "no" to Israel, in hopes that by doing so they will get everything they demand without compromising. And as long as Western governments and the media do not call them on this duplicity, they have no incentive to change this strategy.
(h/t CHA, David G; see also Seth Mandel)