Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R).
(photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
Israel proposed, and the Palestinians rejected, a call to resume direct negotiations when the Quartet representatives come to Jerusalem Wednesday, Israeli officials said Sunday.
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On September 23, the Quartet issued a call and published a framework for getting the sides to the negotiation table. Representatives of the Quartet – US Middle East envoy David Hale, Helga Schmid from the EU, Sergei Vershinin from Russia, and Robert Serry of the UN – are scheduled to hold a third round of separate talks with Israeli and Palestinians in Jerusalem since that date to move the process forward.
The Quartet’s original plan for Wednesday was to meet separately with Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho, and his Palestinian counterpart, Saeb Erekat. Israel, according to officials in Jerusalem, relayed a message that this would be a good time to resume direct talks.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said the Quartet informed Israel the Palestinians were unwilling to do so. The Palestinians are conditioning a return to talks on a complete freeze of Israeli construction beyond the Green Line and the acceptance of the pre-1967 lines as the basis for talks.
“We are disappointed and frustrated by the Palestinian leadership’s repeated refusal to engage directly with Israel,” Regev said.
“They say they believe in peace, but it is very difficult to square this rejectionist position – a position that boycotts sitting at the table with Israel – with their stated aim of supporting peace and reconciliation.”
Over the last two weeks the Palesitnians have said they presented the Quartet with comprehensive proposals on security and territorial issues, as called for by the Quartet.
Israel’s position, one that was publicly supported last week by US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, is that these proposals need to be presented by the sides to each other in direct talks, and not to the Quartet with the hope that it will serve as an intermediary for indirect talks.
But a Palestinian official on Sunday expressed “surprise” regarding the Quartet’s request for direct talks between the sides.
The Palestinians won’t hold direct or indirect talks with Israel unless it halts construction in settlements and east Jerusalem and accepts the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a twostate solution, a PA official in Ramallah reiterated Sunday.
The official said this stance has been repeatedly relayed to representatives of the Quartet during their recent visits to the region.
The official also expressed “surprise” the Quartet representatives were now seeking to hold direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
He said the Quartet plan, which was published last September, does not call for direct talks between the two parties.