Palestinian officials in Ramallah on Thursday expressed fear that President Barack Obama would exert heavy pressure on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to accept a US-sponsored framework agreement with Israel.
Abbas is scheduled to meet with Obama in Washington on March 17.
It would be a “grave mistake” to force Abbas to accept an agreement that does not satisfy most Palestinians, the officials said.
They denied that US Secretary of State John Kerry had presented the Israelis and Palestinians with a draft of the proposed framework agreement.
The Palestinian daily Al-Quds claimed that chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, who is visiting Washington to prepare for Abbas’s meeting with Obama, received a copy of the agreement. The paper claimed that Obama gave Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a copy of the agreement during their meeting earlier this week in the White House.
The Americans gave the Israelis and Palestinians a copy of the agreement “so that no one would be able to claim that they were caught by surprise,” the report said.
The newspaper claimed that Obama promised Netanyahu that he would exert pressure on Abbas to agree to the extension of the peace talks, which are due to be completed at the end of next month. Netanyahu demanded during his meeting with Obama that the peace talks be extended at least until the end of the year, the paper said.
Although the Palestinians are opposed to the extension of the talks beyond April 30, “they are convinced that they have no real choice but to continue with the negotiations if they want to avoid being blamed for the failure of the peace process,” Al-Quds reported.
“Obama doesn’t realize that there’s a limit to how far Abbas can go in making concessions,” a PA official in Ramallah said.
Muhammad Shtayyeh, member of the Fatah Central Committee, accused Israel of trying to thwart Kerry’s efforts to achieve peace in the region.
Israel’s refusal to comply with Palestinian demands on final-status issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, borders and settlements remains the main obstacle to reaching an agreement, Shtayyeh said.
Nabil Sha’ath, a top Fatah official, reiterated the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accused Washington of bias in favor of Israel.
Sha’ath claimed that the US administration has endorsed the Israeli perspective on the continued presence of IDF troops and settlement blocs in the West Bank. He accused the US of seeking to “abolish” the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees.
Sabri Saidam, a senior adviser to Abbas, warned that Israel was preparing to blame the Palestinians for the failure of the peace talks.
He did not rule out the possibility that Israel would seek to isolate Abbas and the PA leadership and send tanks to Ramallah to destroy the Mukata presidential compound.