US Secretary of State John Kerry has made significant progress in his efforts to
revive the peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, Palestinian
Authority officials said Wednesday.
The officials predicted that the
peace talks would resume most likely after the fasting month of Ramadan, which
ends in early August.
The officials refused to say why they were now less
pessimistic than before. However, one PA official said that “for the first time,
President Mahmoud Abbas heard some encouraging and positive things from Mr.
Another official in Ramallah claimed that Israel has agreed to
release a significant number of Palestinian prisoners as requested by the PA
The PA had demanded the release of some 100 inmates who were
imprisoned before the signing of the Oslo Accords about two decades
The official also claimed that the Israeli government has agreed to
a “partial and undeclared” freeze of settlement construction in both the West
Bank and east Jerusalem.
Israeli officials had no comment on the
Abbas and Kerry met twice in the Jordanian capital of Amman over
the past 48 hours.
The first meeting, on Tuesday night, lasted for more
than five hours, according to sources close to the PA president. The second
meeting between the two took place on Wednesday evening, the sources
Abbas is scheduled to convene the PLO leadership in Ramallah on
Thursday for a briefing on the latest developments surrounding the possible
resumption of the peace talks.
Both Kerry and Abbas held separate
meetings with members of the Arab League ministerial committee in Amman to brief
them on the continued efforts to revive the peace process.
following his meeting with the committee, urged Israel to carefully consider the
2002 Arab League peace initiative, in a comment that could presage this
initiative becoming part of the terms of reference for restarting
“Israel needs to look hard at this
initiative, which promises Israel peace with 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim
nations – a total of 57 nations that are standing and waiting for the
possibility of making peace with Israel,” he said.
The plan, put forward
by Saudi Arabia at an Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002, offered full
recognition of Israel – but only if it returned fully to the June 4, 1967 lines,
including on the Golan Heights and in east Jerusalem, and to a “just solution”
for Palestinian refugees.
Softening the plan three months ago, a top
Qatari official raised the possibility of land swaps in setting future
Israeli officials pointed out that Jerusalem
never rejected the plan, and that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said
consistently that if the initiative is the basis of discussion, it is
acceptable, but if it is considered a take-it-orleave- it dictate, it is
“Israel never rejected the plan,” the official stressed.
“Our position has been nuanced.”
Kerry voiced confidence he was on track
toward soon achieving a resumption of peace talks.
“We have been able to
narrow these gaps very significantly. And so we continue to get closer, and I
continue to remain hopeful that the sides can soon be able to come and sit at
the same table.”
The Arab League endorsed Kerry’s peace efforts
Wednesday, saying in a statement carried on the Jordanian news agency that it
hoped this could lead to a two-state solution.
The statement said that
the Arab League delegation in Amman affirmed “its support for Kerry’s great
efforts to revive peace talks between the Palestinian and Israeli sides and
pointed out that the ideas put forward by Kerry before the committee provide the
ground and a suitable environment to start negotiations, especially in new and
important political, economic and security issues.”
delegation “expressed hope that this will lead to a launch of serious
negotiations to address all final status issues to end the conflict and achieve
a just and comprehensive peace between the Palestinians and Israelis which will
bless the region with security, stability and prosperity.”
officials interpreted that as an Arab League green light for Abbas and the PLO leadership to accept Kerry’s terms and
go back to the negotiating table.
Neither US nor Palestinian officials
have given details of the discussions between Abbas and Kerry, who is making his
sixth visit to the region since he took office in February.
officials declined to comment on the matter until after the PLO leaders make
their decision Thursday.
A positive Palestinian decision, if one were to
emerge on Thursday or soon thereafter, would be the first tangible sign of
progress in Kerry’s nearly sixmonth drive to revive the Israeli-Palestinian
peace process, now largely overshadowed by upheaval in Egypt and civil war in
Israeli officials said they were unaware of any plans by Kerry to
visit Israel on his latest trip. They added, however, that Netanyahu and Kerry
were in regular contact.Reuters contributed to this report.