Washington, DC – Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today issued this statement regarding proposed unconditional peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian authorities:

“I am deeply disappointed that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has consistently rejected Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for unconditional talks on the Palestinian issue.

“As everyone familiar with Israeli politics knows, Netanyahu has taken a politically courageous and substantively important step in endorsing the idea of ‘two states for two peoples,’ and he has also taken significant steps to ease travel and access in the West Bank by dismantling numerous checkpoints and roadblocks. Nevertheless, Abbas is demanding that Netanyahu establish a settlement freeze as a condition for a meeting. This is a condition Abbas never required of Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert. Moreover, in the context of bilateral talks, Abbas could raise his settlement concerns directly with Netanyahu – concerns which, Abbas knows, are being discussed intensively between U.S. and Israeli officials.

“For the sake of re-establishing an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and helping to create an environment of peace, I call on President Abbas immediately to accept Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposal for unconditional talks on peace.”