The Jordanian-sponsored talks between
Israel and the Palestinians, the third
round of which resumed on Saturday evening in Amman, are unlikely to achieve a
breakthrough by January 26, Palestinian officials said over the
“I don’t believe we can continue with the exploratory talks in
Amman after January 26, the deadline set by the Quartet to both sides for
achieving progress,” chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
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He was referring to a Quartet statement issued in September that gave the
parties 90 days starting in late October to work toward narrowing the gaps
between them and present their proposals on core issues like security and
But the US on Thursday said that January 26, which marks the end
of those 90 days, was not set in stone.
“We’re trying to encourage
flexibility, creativity, real dialogue,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria
Nuland told reporters in Washington. “Obviously, we want [direct negotiations]
to happen as soon as possible. That was the point of putting dates on the
table. But again, when dates become a straitjacket, it can take you
backwards. We want to go forwards,” she said.
An Israeli official
said that the Quartet timetable had been amended in a de facto fashion, because
it called for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks in October, but in
reality, such conversations had begun only two weeks ago in Amman. The
three-month time-line started two weeks ago and should end in April, the official
In an interview with The Australian published on Saturday, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the most important thing that came out of the
Amman meetings was a commitment to “have continuing negotiations in order to
achieve an agreement.”
He added, “We’re prepared to do that, the
Palestinians aren’t. They keep piling on preconditions for the beginning of such
negotiations. I think this is a mistake.”
Netanyahu illustrated this
point, saying, “There’s a simple way to prove it. I’m willing to get in a car
and travel the eight minutes, 10 minutes, from here to Ramallah and sit down to
negotiations immediately with President Abbas. He is not prepared to do
the same thing with me. This may not be the fashionable international
perception, but sometimes it’s important to cut through the accepted perception
and get to the truth.”
In Ramallah on Saturday, Erekat told reporters
that the talks in Amman would not continue after January 26 unless Israel agreed
to halt all settlement construction, including in Jerusalem, and accepted the
two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 “borders.”
Israel has refused
to accept this demand.
Erekat also emphasized the need for the release of
Palestinians from Israeli prisons, especially those who were sentenced before
the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO. He called for the
release of prominent prisoners like Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Sa’dat,
secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas,
told the Palestinian Authority’s Al- Ayyam daily that the January 26 deadline
was a “crossroads” for the peace process.
The Palestinians would have to
consider their next steps if no progress is achieved by that date, he
said. “We will have to take decisions,” Abu Rudaineh said without
“The US administration must do its utmost to make the
Israeli government stop settlement construction and accept a Palestinian state
along the 1967 borders,” he added.
Abbas told Fatah officials last week that Israel has not presented anything new
during the first two rounds of talks in the Jordanian capital.
January 26 the Palestinians would file a complaint against Israel with the UN
for “violating the Geneva Convention,” he said.
Abbas said there had been
no basis for the resumption of the peace negotiations with Israel. However, he
said that the current talks would continue until January 26.
Saturday, scores of Palestinians demonstrated outside Abbas’s offices in
Ramallah in protest against the ongoing talks in Amman.
The rally was
held under the banner of “Palestinians for Dignity.”
The protesters said
they were opposed to any negotiations with Israel while construction was
continuing in the settlements.
They also demanded that the Palestinians
stay away from the negotiating table until all Palestinians were released from
Some of the demonstrators accused the PA leadership of
failing to fulfill their pledge not to return to the negotiating table until
Israel froze all construction in the settlements and accepted the June 4,
1967, lines as the basis for a two-state solution.
One of the organizers
of the protest, Eghsan Barghouti, said the PA leadership was undermining its own
credibility by resuming the talks with Israel unconditionally.