Quartet members arrive in Israel Monday with little hope of bridging the gulf
that divides the Israeli and the Palestinian leadership and has prevented the
resumption of negotiations.
In Ramallah on Sunday, PA President Mahmoud
Abbas told US envoy David Hale that the Palestinians would not hold direct talks
with Israel unless it froze West Bank settlement activity and stopped
construction in east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods.
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Abbas vows to push ahead with UN membership bid
In addition, Abbas
said, Israel must accept the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state
Abbas also told Hale that the Palestinians are prepared to work
with the Quartet members – the US, EU, UN and Russia – on all the core issues
like Jerusalem, borders, refugees and security, according to chief PLO
negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Reports of the meeting disappointed but did not
surprise Israeli officials, who have listened to a similar refrain for close to
Palestinians stopped talking with Israel when it attacked
Gaza in December 2008 and refused to resume talks when Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu took office in March 2009.
Except for a few meetings in
September 2010, no negotiations have taken place even though Netanyahu has
repeatedly called on the Palestinians to talk without preconditions.
fundamental reason for a current impasse in the peace process is the decision
taken by the Palestinians to refuse to engage, to refuse to negotiate,” said an
Israeli official on Sunday.
“They have been piling on preconditions that
were never placed on the negotiations before [such as a construction freeze],”
said the official.
“All the core issues can be negotiated in the
framework of peace talks,” the official said.
“But piling on
preconditions that prevent the resumption of talks is in no way beneficial to
the cause of peace,” the official said.
“It is high time that the
Palestinians heed the Quartet’s call and agree to the resumption of peace talks
without preconditions,” the official said.
“For the time being the
Palestinian leadership is wasting everyone’s time and doing their own people a
disservice,” said the official.
In the last months, the Quartet has
explored a number of conciliatory formulas, including Palestinian recognition of
Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, in exchange for a West Bank
An alternative formula asks the Palestinians to drop
their demand for a settlement freeze in exchange for acceptable language on the
borders of a two-state solution.
But as of Sunday night, no formula had
been found that would bring both sides back to the table.
Quartet representatives, including its envoy Tony Blair, will meet with Erekat
in Ramallah and speak in Jerusalem with the prime minister’s special envoy for
the talks Yitzhak Molho.
The meetings come just days after a Palestinian
bid to bypass talks in favor of unilateral statehood at the United Nations,
appeared to have failed.
The Palestinians had asked the UN Security
Council to grant it full UN membership; but as of Friday did not have the nine
votes need for the initiative to pass.
The US has opposed the move. In
his Ramallah meeting with Hale on Sunday, Abbas urged the US administration to
reconsider its opposition to the Palestinian application for full membership in
Abbas, according to Erekat, stressed that the Palestinian
statehood bid was not aimed at delegitimizing or isolating Israel, but to
achieve the two-state solution.