Netanyahu’s office denies Abbas offered direct talks three times

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, shaking hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the U.N. Climate Change Conference near Paris, Nov. 30, 2015. (Martin Bureau/AP Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, shaking hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN Climate Change Conference near Paris, Nov. 30, 2015. (Martin Bureau/AP Images)

(JTA) – A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas offered to begin secret, direct talks with Netanyahu three times.

Gershon Baskin, who has acted as an unofficial conduit between the Netanyahu government and Palestinian leadership, told JTA Monday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas offered three times to begin secret, direct negotiations with Netanyahu. Each time, Baskin said, Netanyahu has refused. Baskin said he personally delivered the requests over the past three years.

“Netanyahu is paying lip service to the public and the world, because Abbas has offered Netanyahu on three opportunities a request to enter into secret, direct negotiations,” Baskin told JTA. On Tuesday, Baskin told JTA, “There are at least three times I know of, because I sent the messages for Abbas.”

In a statement to JTA Tuesday, Netanyahu spokesman David Keyes flatly denied Baskin’s claim.

“There is no truth whatsoever to the claim that President Abbas offered to begin secret direct talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Keyes said. “Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to call on President Abbas to meet anytime, anywhere, without preconditions. Unfortunately, President Abbas has refused.”

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