Palestinians want French initiative to set timetable for Israeli West Bank withdrawal

“A peaceful settlement in Palestine can transform Palestine into a gate for democracy,” says Hamdallah.

Palestinian Authority Rami Hamdallah PM hopes to set new parameters for peace with Israel.
The new French peace initiative should set a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told reporters during an English-language press conference in Ramallah on Monday afternoon.
“We hope that the peace conference… can set new parameters for peaceful settlement between us and Israel, in which all countries, at least the major countries, can participate,” Hamdallah said.
“And maybe we can set a time limit for the withdrawal of the Israeli troops and a time limit for the establishment of the Palestinian sovereign independent state over the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as our capital,” he added.
The event, sponsored by the Foreign Press Association, took place just one day after French Foreign Minister Jean- Marc Ayrault visited Israel and the Palestinian territories to brief Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
Netanyahu told Ayrault he opposes the two-phase initiative involving a Paris meeting at the end of the month at which high-level ministers from some 20 countries would plan an international peace conference in the fall.
Such a conference would only embolden Abbas to refuse to hold direct talks with Israel, Netanyahu said, adding that face-to-face negotiations are the only way to resolve the conflict.
Netanyahu stressed the same points on Monday when he met in his Jerusalem office with Austrian Foreign Affairs and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz.
While in Israel, Ayrault told reporters the French initiative also called for direct talks, but only after conditions have been set to ensure their success.
In Ramallah, on Monday, Hamdallah said past negotiations have not resolved the conflict.
“Our previous experiences directly negotiating with the current Israeli government were ineffective,” Hamdallah said.
“We have been talking with the Israelis for 22 years and nothing has been achieved,” he added.
Hamdallah expressed hoped the French initiative would led to more positive results, and said he would like to see it based on the model of what the international community did to reach a peace deal with Iran.
“We look at the Iranian precedence as a model, which could bear fruit,” he said.
Hamdallah expressed appreciation for past efforts by the United States to broker a peace deal, particularly the ninemonth process that fell apart in April 2014.
“We must thank [US Secretary of State John] Kerry for his tireless support in 2013 and 2014, but unfortunately nothing was achieved,” Hamdallah said, while stressing the importance of solving the conflict.
“Without finding a settlement for this [Palestinian-Israeli] conflict, we will never find a solution for other conflicts, this is the root of all conflicts in the region,” Hamdallah said, adding that this includes the battle against Islamic State.
The PA prime minister ducked questions about his government’s support for last month’s UNESCO resolution, which ignored Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.
“We do not like to transform the conflict between us and Israel into a religious conflict,” Hamdallah said as he explained that his government believes in tolerance and co-existence for all religions.
“A peaceful settlement in Palestine can transform Palestine into a gate for democracy,” he stated.
On the issue of Palestinian incitement to violence against Israelis, he said: “The biggest incitement factor is the occupation and the second one is the settlers.”
Addressing security cooperation with Israel, Hamdallah said a Palestinian Central Council decision had been in place since March 2015 to halt such activity, but that no timetable had been set for when that would occur. The PLO has taken a similar decision, he said.
Area A of the West Bank should be fully under Palestinian control, but instead, the IDF has made incursions into it on an almost daily basis since 2002, Hamdallah stated.
Recently, there have been six meetings between Israel and Palestinian security chiefs about halting those incursions but, so far, Israel has refused to do so, Hamdallah claimed.
He added that he believes the PLO may soon meet to talk about creating a mechanism for stopping the security cooperation with Israel.