If Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas destroyed the diplomatic process last week by reconciling with Hamas, he “confirmed the kill” on Saturday with his speech affirming the pact and stipulating conditions for continued talks with Israel, diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said.
Israel on Thursday suspended talks with the Palestinians because of the Fatah-Hamas pact, and since that time Jerusalem has made clear to the Palestinians, the US and the international community that it will not resume the talks with Abbas if this accord is implemented, unless Hamas accepts the international community’s three conditions for engagement: recognizing Israel, stopping terrorism and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Tuesday is the deadline for the nine-month talks brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry that began last July.
A government official said that contacts were “ongoing” with the US – but not with the Palestinians – with the focus being to get Abbas to reverse his decision.
Israel will continue to take “unilateral steps” – such as the decision to suspend the talks – in response to the Palestinian move, the official said.
He would not elaborate what those further steps would be, or when they would be implemented.
US President Barack Obama, meanwhile, said at a press conference on Friday in South Korea that the US would continue to be engaged with the process, even though “there may come a point at which there just needs to be a pause and both sides need to look at the alternatives.”
Neither side has demonstrated the “kind of political will to actually make tough decisions,” Obama said.
Abbas’s “unhelpful step of rejoining talks with Hamas” was “just one of a series of choices that both the Israelis and the Palestinians have made that are not conducive” to resolving the crisis, the US president said.
“Folks can posture; folks can cling to maximalist positions; but realistically, there’s one door, and that is the two parties getting together and making some very difficult political compromises in order to secure the future of both Israelis and Palestinians for future generations,” he said.
“We have not yet seen them walk through that door. We will continue to encourage them to walk through that door. Do I expect that they will walk through that door next week, next month, or even in the course of the next six months? No. Are we going to continue to try to offer constructive approaches that could lead them to go ahead and take those steps? Absolutely. And I make no apologies for that. It’s the right thing to do. It’s important and it’s in America’s national interest as well as the interests of the region and the interest of Israel,” Obama said.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Friday that US envoy Martin Indyk was still in the region.
She described the current time as a “moment of transition” and a “holding period where parties need to figure out what is next.”
Psaki refused to characterize the inability to meet the April 29 deadline with either a comprehensive agreement, a framework understanding, or even an agreement to keep talking as a “failure.”
“This is a process. We’ve always believed it would be a process, and so we will continue to see what happens in the days, weeks and months ahead,” Psaki said.
On April 29, US Secretary of State John Kerry will be “headed to Africa,” she said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, will take his case to the American public on Sunday, giving two interviews, one on CBS and another on CNN.
This follows three interviews he gave on Thursday – to MSNBC, FOX News and the BBC – explaining Israel’s reason for suspending the talks.
Netanyahu is likely to relate in his interviews not only to the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, but also the conditions that Abbas has laid out for returning to talks, including a complete freeze of Israeli construction beyond the Green Line, including in Jerusalem; focusing for the next three months on the issue of borders; and an unwillingness to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Netanyahu will likely stress that Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by the US, EU, Australia, Canada, Japan and Egypt; that it tramples the rights of women, Christians, the press and political opponents; and that it consistently refuses to recognize Israel, stop terrorism or accept previous agreements.