Jerusalem lodged a strong protest with Washington during the long holiday weekend over what Israelis say were numerous media leaks by Palestinian figures from the peace talks. An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the prime minister’s envoy to the talks, Isaac Molho, called his U.S. counterpart Martin Indyk and complained that the leaks "violated all the agreements" Israel and the Palestinians had made with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
When the peace talks were launched, in Washington in late July, both parties promised not to report the contents, or even the dates, of their meetings to the media. It was agreed that only the United States would speak to representatives of the media about the negotiations.
The Israeli side has kept its promising, refusing to divulge even the smallest technical details. But over the four-day long weekend several senior Palestinian figures gave media interviews, some anonymously and others on the record and for attribution. They all carried the same message – the negotiations are not progressing.
The Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo, in an interview to the Voice of Palestine on Wednesday, said "until now there has been no progress" and that without American pressure on Israel no breakthrough will be achieved.
Senior Fatah official Nabil Sha’ath told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, similarly, that there has been no progress in the talks, adding that for the past six weeks Israel has been presenting the issues it wants to discuss.
A senior Palestinian official who spoke to the Associated Press anonymously said Israel had proposed a Palestinian state within temporary borders on some 60 percent of the territory of the West Bank.
The Palestinians rejected the proposal and said they wanted first to reach an agreement that the Palestinian state would be based on the 1967 lines and then discuss the stages of establishing that state, he said.
Another Palestinian official who asked not to be identified told the Chinese news agency Xinhua on Wednesday that Israel insists on only discussing security issues.
The official said Israel had presented 17 points reflecting its position on the security arrangements. He added that in the course of the talks, a dispute broke out over the Palestinians' refusal to accept any Israeli military presence within the Palestinian state.
Israeli officials had not commented or responded to these breaches, in part because most of the leaks were inaccurate or made by figures who are not participating in the negotiations.
But after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted in Palestinian media outlets over the weekend as saying that Israel was rejecting the principle of territorial exchange, Jerusalem took action.
Abbas told a visiting Arab athletic delegation he might withdraw his land swap proposal and demand all of the territories Israel occupied in June 1967 if Israel reneges on agreements on borders and security reached under previous prime ministers, especially Ehud Olmert.
Abbas said Olmert offered to swap 6% of the area of the West Bank, while the Palestinians proposed 1.9%.
“We told the present Israeli negotiators that if you want to go back on what was agreed with Olmert, we will go back on our agreement for a land swap and so we will ask for all of the 1967 land as is,” Al-Hayat al-Jadida quoted Abbas as saying.
An Israeli official told Haaretz that the leaks, especially the one about the Israeli proposal to set up a Palestinian state within temporary borders, were incorrect.
"The Palestinian side not only leaks, but leaks wrong," he said. "It's a regular pattern of the Palestinians ahead of international gatherings – in this case Kerry's meetings with the European and Arab League foreign ministers. They leak that there's no progress in order to increase international pressure on Israel."
The leaks from the Palestinian side, although exaggerated and partly false, reflect growing frustration in Ramallah over the lack of progress in the talks. The Palestinians are accusing Israel of foot-dragging and of trying to play for time without presenting their positions. After six rounds of talks neither side can show the slightest progress.
The Palestinians are demanding that the negotiations be based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps, while Israel has refused to state that clearly.
Israel is continuing to demand to discuss and reach an agreement first on the security arrangements in the future Palestinian state and only then discuss borders. The Palestinians refuse to do so.
An Israeli official familiar with the negotiations said the talks were "treading water." Both sides were digging in their heels. "At this rate the negotiations won't go anywhere," he said.