Israeli and Palestinian leaders yesterday blamed each other for the impasse in newly launched peace efforts, raising doubts about whether the dialogue would continue just weeks after it began.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of spoiling the low-level talks, saying it failed to present detailed proposals for borders and security requested by international mediators. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Palestinians "refused to even discuss" Israeli security needs.
For the past month, the sides have held Jordanian-mediated exploratory talks at the urging of the Quartet mediators - from the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia. The goal of the talks has been to find a formula to resume formal peace negotiations, with the aim of forging an agreement this year.
The Palestinians say the three-month period set by the Quartet for the exploratory talks ended last week.
Abbas, though deeply skeptical about Netanyahu's intentions, is under intense international pressure to stay at the table and would risk being blamed for the failure of the latest Mideast peace efforts if he leaves.
Walking away would be a particularly risky strategy at a time when he seeks global recognition of a Palestinian state ahead of a possible border deal with Israel. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected to arrive in the region this week to help keep the talks alive.
"By not presenting a clear vision on the issues of borders and security, as the Quartet demanded, Israel foiled the exploratory talks in Amman," Abbas said, according to a report by the Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Israel has said it wants to keep talking and is serious about reaching a deal by year's end. It says the exploratory talks should continue for another two months.
Addressing his cabinet at its weekly meeting yesterday morning, Netanyahu said the dialogue had indeed gotten off to a rocky start, but he expressed the hope the talks would continue.
"Until this moment, according to what happened in recent days, the Palestinians refused to even discuss with us the needs of Israel's security," he said. "The signs are not very good, but I hope they will come to their senses and we'll continue the talks so we can reach real negotiations."
Netanyahu later noted his condemnation of a Palestinian state-run television show that praised the murderers of a Jewish settler family of five as "heroes." The TV station hosted relatives of the killers of the Fogel family, who were stabbed in their sleep last March. Among the dead were a 4-year-old boy and his baby sister.
"The only way to make progress in peace is to prepare our people for peace and not cruel terror," the prime minister stated. "We are ready to continue in talks and we hope that the Palestinian Authority will decide to renew talks and stay away from the way of terror and glorifying the murderers."
Palestinian spokesman Husam Zomlot said he was not aware of the TV show and would look into the matter.
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