With US Secretary of State John Kerry pushing forward with efforts to present a document that will form the basis of further Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made clear there is “no room to maneuver” on the Palestinian claim of a right of return for Palestinian refugees.
“It is a nonstarter, it is not going to happen,” one official said.
The refugee issue, as well as borders, security, Jerusalem and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state are issues expected to be addressed in broad strokes in the US document.
But as the US prepares to unveil this document, both Israelis and Palestinians have issued statements, which show a wide gap between them when it comes to their redlines.
The PLO said Wednesday that the peace process with Israel was not serious and called for international involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, PLO secretary- general, said after a meeting of PLO leaders in Ramallah that the peace talks have reached an impasse because of Israel.
The PLO official accused Netanyahu of “deception and fraud” and reiterated the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Another PLO official, Tayseer Khaled, told reporters that the demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state was “dangerous.” He explained that such recognition would harm the issue of the refugees and their “right of return.”
Israel, he charged, does not recognize the refugees’ right to return to their former homes.
“On the contrary, Israel is exonerating itself of this crime and making it the responsibility of the international community,” Khaled said.
On Saturday night Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said there would be no peace deal with Israel unless the Palestinian refugees can choose for themselves if they want to “return.”
He said the Palestinians will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and that the capital of a future Palestinian sate must be in east Jerusalem.
According to government officials, Netanyahu has said the Palestinian demand of a “so-called right of return” is “not right, not justified, and not legitimate.”
Netanyahu has said in meetings that an expectation that Israel has to deal with Arab refugees that were created by the war in 1948 that the Arabs started against Israel was preposterous, according to government officials.
If Palestinians want to return to a Palestinian state, they can go there, Netanyahu said.
One official, referring to Abbas’s speech on Saturday, said this was a reiteration of a “whole series of maximalist claims that everyone understands will make a negotiated peace impossible.”
“You will never get an end to the conflict with endless claims,” he said.
But the Palestinians have said that peace can only be attained if their claims are met.
Abed Rabbo accused Israel of “land theft.” He said that Israel’s goal from the negotiations is to grab more land.
Israel’s demand to retain control over the border crossings with Jordan was one of the reasons for the current crisis in the talks, Abed Rabbo said, adding that “the occupation authorities also want to keep settlement blocs that are expanding everyday, in addition to Jerusalem.”
He pointed out that Israel was seeking control over West Bank hilltops and airspace.
“Which Palestinian state are the Israelis talking about?” he asked.
“Which two-state solution? What’s the point in extending the talks beyond nine months?” He said that the Palestinians were opposed to any extension of the talks.
The past six months have not witnessed any progress, he added.
“Three months or three years can’t solve this issue,” he said.
Khaled criticized talk about the framework agreement that Kerry is planning to present to Israel and the Palestinians.
He said that such an agreement would be unclear and nonconstructive and give Israel what it wants while granting the Palestinians mere promises.
An Israeli official said that Israel remains committed to achieving an agreement for a two-state solution and hopes the Palestinians start getting serious about negotiations.
The only way this will happen is through negotiations with Israel, the official said.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.