The current round of diplomatic negotiations will only yield results if the Palestinians want them to work and lend their hand in making them work, government official ssaid on Sunday before the next day’s meeting between US President Barack Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The message Abbas needed to hear in the Oval Office was that if the Palestinians just wait for Israel to make concessions and see the process as a one-way street, the process will fail, the officials said.
“This will only work if it is a two-way street,” the official said. Abbas met on Sunday with US Secretary of State John Kerry, before his meeting with Obama.
The comments came a day after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in an interview that he doubted there would be an agreement in his generation and that Abbas is a partner who “takes but doesn’t give.”
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians, responded to this on Sunday in a Facebook posting, saying that those who say there will not be an accord in our generation are the ones who are giving up.
“Responsible leadership cannot give up on Israel’s most basic interests: to protect us and Zionism as a Jewish, democratic state that ensures we do not turn into a binational state,” she wrote.
“True, this is complicated and difficult, but to complain and give up is easy. We decision- makers are not observers or commentators,” she wrote.
“The leadership on both sides must make decisions. But to only voice criticism on the other side (and I also have some) is not a work plan for leadership.”
Obama is meeting with Abbas exactly two weeks after he met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington, and 11 days before Israel is to release the fourth and final batch of 26 Palestinian security prisoners.
While Obama gave an interview that was published just a day before he met with Netanyahu in which he seemed to put the onus for reaching an accord on the prime minister’s shoulders, no interview with similarly tough language toward Abbas has yet been published before their meeting.
Israeli officials said Israel is presently focused on Secretary of State John Kerry’s much-discussed framework document laying out the principles the US believe are needed for a two-state solution, even though there is increasing speculation that Kerry may in the end not even present the paper, because the two sides cannot agree on the bulk of it.
Sources close to Netanyahu refused to speculate on whether the document would in the end emerge. If it is to be presented, however, many diplomatic officials believe that has to be done before the March 28 prisoner release, as Israel would be reluctant to go through with it if it did not know that it was getting at least the continuation of the negotiations in return.
Another scenario is that the talks continue beyond the April 29 deadline, but without any written framework document. Palestinian officials were quoted on Sunday as saying that they would agree to a continuation of the negotiations past the April 29 deadline only if Israel agreed to a settlement construction freeze and to release additional Palestinian prisoners.
The Palestinians are calling for Israel to release Israeli Arabs convicted of terrorist acts in the next batch of terrorists, something that will be difficult for Netanyahu to get through the cabinet. The full cabinet does not need to vote on the next prisoner release unless it includes Israeli Arabs.
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel said in an Israel Radio interview that his Bayit Yehudi party would not sit in a government that releases Israeli Arab terrorists.
Regarding a settlement freeze, he said that the previous freeze in 2009-2010 failed, and there was no reason to do it again.
On the other hand, Environment Protection Minister Amir Peretz (Hatnua) said Israel would not find a better partner than Abbas, and that Israel should “strengthen him so he can lead his people to a historic process leading to two states living peacefully side by side. He came out in favor of a freeze on construction in the settlements.
Another issue that is expected to be raised in the Obama-Abbas meeting is the Palestinian leader’s adamant refusal to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. A number of senior Israeli officials on Sunday morning criticized Kerry for giving Abbas back wind for this position when he said in Congress on Thursday that Netanyahu’s call for such Palestinian recognition was “a mistake.”
Communications Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud Beytenu) told Israel Radio it was a mistake for Kerry to make these comments ahead of Abbas’s meeting with Obama, and that by doing so the secretary of state put pressure on the wrong side.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud Beytenu) said Kerry’s comments were part of a pattern that emerged over the past 20 years, whereby the international community finds it easier to pressure Israel rather than the Palestinians, despite who it believes is in the right. Elkin called for Israel to stand up for its principles and bring an end to this “sad tradition.”
Another issue likely to be raised during Abbas’s meetings in Washington is Palestinian incitement.
Ofir Gendelman, Netanyahu’s spokesman for the Arab media, posted on his Twitter account a clip from last Wednesday showing Abbas Zaki, a Fatah Central Committee member, saying on PA TV that Allah’s plan was for the Jews to be gathered to Israel so they could be killed.
“Those Israelis have no religion and no principles. They are nothing but advanced tools for evil.
They talk about the Holocaust and so on, so why are they doing this to us. Therefore in my view Allah will gather them so we will kill them.
Every killer is bound to be killed, there is no other option,” he said in the clip, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).