PA official: Palestinians to rule on fate of Israel peace talks in days
Member of PLO executive committee says Palestinians likely to withdraw from talks over their 'failure'; PA sources say Israel offers to make West Bank barrier into official border.
The executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is expected to rule whether or not to continue the Jordan-mediated low-level peace talks with Israel in the next few days, Palestinian officials said on Saturday.
On Thursday, the time frame that the Palestinians have allowed for talks with Israel in Amman under Jordanian auspices expired, as sources associated with the Middle East Quartet - the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia - said last-minute efforts are underway to head off the talks' collapse.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's representative to the Amman talks, Isaac Molho, met on Wednesday in the Jordanian capital for a fifth time with the head of the Palestinian negotiating team Saeb Erekat - but at this point no formula has been reached that would enable the talks to continue.
Erekat made it clear that because Israel has not presented its position on the issue of borders with a Palestinian state, from the Palestinians' standpoint, the talks have ended.
Speaking on Friday, Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the PLO's top panel, said that the Palestinian leadership will decide on the future of the fledgling peace talk in the coming days, following what he called their "failure."
Abu Yousef said that the PA was considering to accelerate reconciliation talks with Hamas, adding that "all necessary measure will be weighed in order to strengthen our people's resolve against the racist and fascist occupation and to increase popular resistance in all Palestinian lands."
The PLO indicated that it plans to bring its decision to the Arab League ahead of its planned February 4 meeting.
According to Palestinian officials, the PA's expected exit from peace talks come following Molho's recent proposal concerning borders, one which would not, the officials said, enable the existence of a future Palestinian state.
Speaking earlier Friday, unnamed Palestinian sources told the Associated Press that the proposal brought forth by Molho during his recent meeting with Erekat was to essentially turn Israel's West Bank separation barrier into the border with a future state of Palestine.
The officials said Israeli envoy Molho told his Palestinian counterpart that Israel wants to keep east Jerusalem and consolidate Jewish settlements behind the separation barrier, which slices close to 10 percent off the West Bank.
They spoke on Friday on condition of anonymity, citing strict no-leaks rules by Jordanian mediators.
That proposal would fall short of what the Palestinians seem likely to accept, especially because it would leave Jerusalem on the "Israeli" side of the border.
Israel has confirmed that it presented principles this week for drawing a border with a Palestinian state. But the politically charged nature of the talks - even though they were held at a relatively low level, below that of Cabinet ministers - was reflected in the guarded refusal by any top official to discuss details.
An Israeli government official said that as far as he knew, the information was incorrect, but declined to elaborate or go on the record, citing Jordan's demand for discretion.
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, one of the closest Cabinet ministers to Netanyahu, said he has been supporting such an offer for months, and that Israel should concentrate on preserving the large West Bank settlement blocs, close to the pre-1967 border. But he could not confirm whether the offer was in fact made.
"I do not know if (Molho) said these words exactly, but it would be great," Meridor told The Associated Press.
The Palestinian officials - one a senior member of the leadership - said Molcho told the Palestinians that Israel wants to live peacefully beside a Palestinian state.
It would be the most detailed offer yet from Netanyahu on how much he wants to keep of the lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War … the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.
The Palestinians want to establish their state in virtually all of these lands - although they do seem ready to accept minor adjustments, through land swaps in which Israel keeps some of the largest settlements.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is certainly unlikely to consider a proposal that keeps east Jerusalem under Israeli control. The eastern sector of the city is home to key Jewish, Muslim and Christian sites.
And Israel's position, as described by the Palestinians, is less than what was offered by Netanyahu's predecessors, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, who were willing to discuss a partition of Jerusalem as well.
The Palestinian officials also said that Molho portrayed the Jordan Valley, which makes up about one-fourth of the West Bank and borders Jordan, as a strategic Israeli security asset. However, that wording suggests less than a demand for firm territorial control.
Netanyahu has said he wants a continued Israeli presence on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state as part of any peace deal.
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