Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday failed to win the
backing of PLO and Fatah leaders for resuming peace talks with
Abbas convened the leaders in Ramallah to brief them on the
outcome of his discussions with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Jordan this
week. Kerry would likely leave the region on Friday empty-handed.
and Kerry met in Amman on Tuesday and Wednesday in the context of Kerry’s
ongoing efforts to revive the stalled peace talks. Early on Thursday there was
much speculation that the secretary of state would make an announcement on
Friday morning of an agreement to begin negotiations.
Kerry’s new ideas and proposals for resuming the peace talks, Abbas returned to
Ramallah to seek the approval of members of the PLO Executive Committee and the
Fatah Central Committee for returning to the negotiating table. Abbas already
won the backing of the Arab League foreign ministers on Wednesday for resuming
Palestinian officials described Thursday’s discussions in
Ramallah as “stormy,” saying several PLO and Fatah officials voiced opposition
to the resumption of the talks on the basis of Kerry’s ideas, which have yet to
be made public.
At the end of the discussions, the Palestinian leaders
announced that they had formed a committee that would be entrusted with
reviewing Kerry’s proposals.
Israel had no formal comment on the
developments, awaiting a final Palestinian decision.
“We are ready to
return to talks, and we hope the Palestinians are ready as well,” one official
Amin Maqboul, a Fatah official, said the Palestinians were seeking
a written and public declaration from Kerry about the understandings he reached
Maqboul told the Palestinian Ma’an news agency that Abbas and
Kerry agreed that the talks with Israel would be based on the pre-1967 lines and
that the Israeli government would release Palestinian prisoners and halt
construction in settlements.
Maqboul said that a denial issued by Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office
[regarding the pre-1967 lines and possible
land swaps] “blew up Kerry’s efforts.”
Maqboul said he did not share
other Palestinian officials’ assessment that Kerry would nevertheless go ahead
with plans to announce the resumption of the peace talks.
refusal to accept the 1967 borders means that he remains committed to settlement
construction,” the Fatah official said. “This means there will be no return to
Thursday night’s development capped a roller-coaster
day that began with high expectations that Kerry was on the verge of announcing
the re-commencement of talks.
President Shimon Peres, addressing the EU
in an appeal to freeze its publication of new guidelines restricting engagement
with Israeli entities over the 1967 lines, said the sides were within “touching
distance” of restarting talks.
“From the latest information at my
disposal, Secretary Kerry has succeeded in advancing the chance for opening
peace talks,” Peres said. “I am grateful for his efforts and I know that the
endeavor is a serious one.
The coming days are crucial and we are within
His words were followed by a Reuters report quoting
an Israeli official as saying Israel had agreed to resume talks based on the
borders of a future Palestinian state being drawn along the pre-1967 lines, with
agreed land swaps, a central Palestinian demand that Netanyahu had consistently
resisted being placed in the talks’ terms of reference.
In an apparent
concession to Israel, the terms of reference – according to this report – would
then describe the future Palestinian state as one that would exist alongside a
Israel has long sought Palestinian recognition of Israel as
the nation-state of the Jewish people, a declaration that would imply that the
Palestinians have given up their claims to a “right of return” to Israel for
refugees and their descendants.
The Prime Minister’s Office, however,
quickly denied the report.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki then
further doused expectations by saying in Amman that there were currently “no
plans for an announcement for the resumption of negotiations.”
and other Palestinian officials claimed that Israel has agreed to release some
250 Palestinian prisoners, in addition to another 100 inmates imprisoned before
the signing of the Oslo Accords. Israeli officials would not release any details
about what had and had not been agreed upon.
Palestinian sources told
Ma’an that most Fatah and PLO officials who participated in Thursday’s
discussions do not trust the US administration.
PLO Executive Committee
member Wasel Abu Yusef said after the meeting said that Kerry and Abbas have
reached an understanding that the borders of a Palestinian state should be on
the pre-1967 lines.
Abu Yusef said that the Israeli government was still
refusing to accept the Palestinian demand to stop settlement
The US believes that the two sides can continue to
negotiate while settlement construction continues, Abu Yusef added.
don’t believe that under the current circumstances we would be able to resume
the negotiations,” he said. “This would be unacceptable to the Palestinian
A source close to Abbas said that Kerry’s proposals call for
ceasing Jewish construction in the West Bank outside settlement blocs, and
boosting the Palestinian economy.
Despite the note of pessimism, some
Palestinian officials said it was premature to talk about the failure of Kerry’s
One official said that Abbas seemed inclined to return to the
negotiations, even if all his demands are not met.
“Kerry promised us
some very good things, but the problem is that he won’t put this in writing,”
the official explained. “In light of our past experiences with the Americans,
many leaders here remain skeptical and don’t trust the US administration.”