Blair Denies Reports of Peres-Abbas Agreement in 2011

Outgoing Israeli President Shimon Peres told an Israeli television interviewer earlier this week that three years ago he nearly had an agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinians seized on this interview to claim that it is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has been an obstacle to peace. However, former British Prime Minister and current Quartet representative Tony Blair says that there was never an agreement reached between the two.

According to the Times of Israel, Peres made the claim in an interview with Channel Two news:

Peres said that the prime minister asked him to wait three or four days, in the hopes that Quartet Representative and former British prime minister Tony Blair could negotiate a better deal.

“The days went by and there was no better deal,” said Peres. ”Netanyahu stopped it [the potential agreement].”

One of the elements of the reported deal was that Abbas would recognize Israel as the Jewish state, something he refused to do during the recent negotiations that collapsed when he pressed ahead to join 15 international treaties.

The Prime Minister’s office said that no deal was reached.

“Abu Mazen did not agree to anything. This time around as well, all he wanted was to receive and give nothing in return,” a source at the PMO told the Times of Israel. “This is a known tactic of his, to take an ambiguous stance until he’s pushed into a corner and then flees. This is what happened when he said no at Camp David [in 2000] with [then Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser] Arafat, it’s what happened at Annapolis [in 2008]. He’s done the same thing now with [US Secretary of State John] Kerry when he said no.”

“The only agreement [Abbas reached] was with Hamas. He who hugs a mass murderer [Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal] on our Memorial Day is not looking for peace with Israel,” the source added.

When asked about Peres’s report of a deal, Blair denied knowing anything about it.

Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair said Wednesday that he was unaware of a covert 2011 draft peace agreement between President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — which Peres said had been torpedoed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Contemporaneous accounts of the Peres-Abbas meetings make no mention that Peres and Abbas were close to a peace agreement. At the time Abbas was quoted as saying,  “I met Shimon Peres four times in Amman and London in an attempt to restart negotiations and the peace process on a correct foundation.”
In 2010 Prime Minister Netanyahu, under American pressure, agreed to a settlement freeze in order to coax Abbas to return to negotiations. The PA didn’t come to the table until the very end of the freeze and then refused to negotiate further once the freeze ended. After that Abbas threatened to go to the United Nations with his statehood bid. Peres engaged in talks with Abbas in an effort to stave off the UN bid and get negotiations back on track.