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(photo credit: GPO / Kobi Gideon)
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived Wednesday evening for another round of
talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah, with Palestinian officials again voicing deep
pessimism about any breakthrough in peace talks, and Israeli officials more keen
on talking to Kerry about Iran than about the Palestinians.
Kerry met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday
morning. He was expected to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas in Ramallah later in the day. A second meeting with Netanyahu on Thursday evening is
possible if deemed necessary. This has been the pattern of Kerry’s meetings
during previous visits. He is expected to fly back to the US on
“The number one security challenge we face is Iran,” one Israeli
government official said, explaining why Iran had in recent weeks totally
eclipsed the Palestinian issue in Jerusalem. He added that it did not have to
come at the expense of talks with the Palestinians, but would necessitate the
Palestinians coming to the table with a commitment to making the negotiations
work – something he charged had not yet been the case.
officials, meanwhile, repeated charges Wednesday that the US was biased in favor
of Israel and called for the involvement of other international parties in the
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi told foreign
diplomats on Wednesday that “US bias in favor of Israel does not serve
Ashrawi also criticized the US for maintaining a “monopoly” over
the peace process and putting pressure on the PA leadership “while Israel does
not abide by international law and signed agreements.”
She called for
convening another Geneva conference to “end the occupation and establish a
Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967
She was referring to the recent Geneva agreement between Iran
and the six big powers.
Ashrawi warned that failure to take practical
measures to safeguard the two-state solution would lead only to the one-state
option – a reality, she added, that would “plunge the entire region into
Another top PLO official, Tayseer Khaled, said no progress had
been achieved so far during peace talks with Israel. The US had not met any of
the promises it made to Abbas, he charged.
Khaled, too, criticized the US
for failing to exert pressure on Israel, especially regarding home demolitions.
He also expressed fear that Kerry would strike a deal with Netanyahu whereby
Israel softens its criticism of the Geneva accord with Iran.
to say enough is enough to Kerry,” he told the Palestine News
Network. “US bias in favor of Israel has damaged the peace
Israeli officials, who said they knew nothing about a Haaretz
report that Kerry would present Netanyahu with a plan for security arrangements
to be put in place following an agreement, slammed the Palestinians for not
coming to the table in good faith. Defense issues, specifically whether Israel
would have a security presence along the Jordan River after an agreement, are
believed to be a major stumbling block.
“It is easy for the Palestinians
to make demands of Israel; they do that without thinking,” one official said.
“But what are they willing to do for peace? Are they willing to engage seriously
Israel’s legitimate security concerns?” The official dismissed Palestinian
claims that the talks were on the brink of collapse, saying this was part of
their policy of brinkmanship, and that every time Kerry arrives there are always
Palestinian statements about the talks being in trouble.