The intensive U.S. efforts to create an agreed outline for renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have failed, Israeli and Palestinian sources have told Haaretz. The sources said the Palestinian leadership is more determined than ever to pursue the recognition of an independent Palestinian state at the United Nations in September.
An Israeli source who was close to talks held by the U.S. administration with both Israeli and Palestinian officials told Haaretz the Americans was unable to find a formula that both parties could accept and take to the negotiating table. He said the Americans were working on a formula that would combine President Barack Obama's speech at the State Department on May 19 and his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on May 22. Such a formula would offer the Palestinians the 1967 border with territorial exchanges while promising Israeli recognition of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.
Both parties raised numerous objections to Washington's proposal, leading the administration to conclude that neither was ready to resume talks. The Americans therefore decided to settle for a generic Quartet statement containing only a single bit of real news - announcing the dispatch of a team of senior diplomats to hold another round of talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah and report back to Obama personally.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday he was ready to resume peace talks "tomorrow," and blamed the Palestinians for the impasse in negotiations. He made the remarks during a meeting with Greek President Karolos Papoulias, who was visiting Jerusalem.
The foreign ministers of the Quartet met last night in Washington. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met separately with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Quartet envoy Tony Blair, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The ministers were to dine together and then issue the press announcement.
Senior officials in both Jerusalem and Ramallah said yesterday the Palestinian Authority leadership was determined to push for a UN vote on statehood, based on their assumption it was no longer possible to resume talks with Israel. The Palestinians insist on continuing with the move, despite strong American opposition. On his visit to Washington last week PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat was rebuffed when he tried to present the Palestinian appeal to the UN.
The Palestinians believe that by the end of this month they will be able to secure support from 130 member states for recognition of an independent Palestinian state in the United Nations. The European Union members they judge most likely to vote in favor include Sweden, Spain, Malta, Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg, and possibly France and the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, more than 100 members of the European Parliament are urging the EU and its member states to discourage the Palestinians from seeking UN recognition.
In a letter to Ashton, parliamentarians from conservatives to liberals to socialists argued that issues between Palestinians and Israelis can be solved only by negotiations, not a declaration of independence.
"It is precisely because we believe in the justness of the Palestinian cause that we urge them to refrain from seeking UN recognition of a unilaterally declared state, a counterproductive step we fear could set back the chances for peace," said the letter, signed by 106 members of the European Parliament.
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