On the eve of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority leadership announced that it has agreed to delay its plan to prosecute Israel at the International Criminal Court, PLO Executive Committee member Hana Amireh confirmed Saturday.
Kerry is scheduled to meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday evening to discuss ways of resuming peace talks with Israel. He is then scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday morning, following a day of talks Monday in Jerusalem with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki said the PA leadership was expecting Kerry to bring new ideas and proposals for resuming the peace process.
Amireh said the decision to postpone the court bid was taken three months ago. He said the PA was hoping the US and other international parties would be able to exert pressure on Israel to stop its “measures” against the Palestinians.
“The Palestinian leadership took the decision to postpone its plan to go to the international court in order to give a last chance to halt Israeli plans to build in area E1 [between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim],” Amireh told the Palestinian news agency Quds Net.
Amireh denied that the PA decision was related to Kerry’s renewed attempts to revive the peace process.
An Israeli government official said the Palestinian decision to “take unilateral steps in international bodies has been one of the major causes of friction, because ultimately the only way to solve issues is through negotiations, not grandstanding at UN forums where they have an automatic majority.” Another PLO official, Ahmed Majdalani, said that he did not rule out the possibility that Kerry, who is returning to the region this week, would share new ideas to resume the stalled peace talks.
Majdalani said that Kerry’s visit to the region would determine whether the Americans have new ideas to revive the peace process.
He stressed that the PA’s stance regarding the peace process remained unchanged, noting that Israel must cease construction in all settlements, including east Jerusalem, and release Palestinian prisoners imprisoned before the signing of the Oslo Accords.
The PA is demanding that Israel release some 120 prisoners who were imprisoned before 1993. In Ramallah on Saturday, Abbas emphasized the need for Israel to stop settlement construction and release Palestinian prisoners in order to pave the way for the resumption of the peace process.
Abbas told visiting Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird that he remained committed to the two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, with Jerusalem as its capital. Abbas also urged the international community to intervene with Israel to stop its “escalation against the Palestinians, especially the prisoners who are suffering from repressive measures,” according to a statement released by Abbas’s office.
One Israeli official, responding to the Palestinian demand for a release of prisoners, said that “within the framework of the peace processes moving forward, Israel is ready for reciprocal, mutual confidence-building measures – and many are being looked at.” The official would not, however, elaborate.
The official, meanwhile, dismissed reported PA demands that Netanyahu provide Kerry with a map of how he envisions the borders of a two-state solution. “You can’t atomize the issue of borders and ignore other ones, such as Israel’s security requirements, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and whether the accord will be an end to the conflict,” the official said.
“It is clear the Palestinians want a map,” the official added. “That is what they always want. But from out perspective it is inconceivable to talk about where final borders will be without dealing with other core issues, such as what will be the nature of the Palestinian state, will it be demilitarized, will it recognize the Jewish state, will it say the conflict is over.”
The idea of demanding an Israeli map, the official said, is motivated by wanting Israel to make concessions, without having to make any concession themselves.