Abbas: Israel Must Clarify Position on Palestinian Borders Ahead of Talks

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If Israel really wants to prove it is serious about restarting the peace process, it must present a map of the borders of a future Palestinian state, Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas said during recent talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Senior Palestinian officials told Al-Ayyam, a newspaper published in Ramallah, that Kerry asked Netanyahu and Abbas to give him two months during which he will shuttle back and forth to the region to try to narrow the gaps and the disputes between Israel and the Palestinians. At the conclusion of those two months Kerry wants to present an American proposal for a renewal of negotiations about the borders of the future Palestinian state and Israeli security arrangements.

Netanyahu has avoided presenting such a map for the past four years.

On Thursday, Haaretz reported that the Palestinian president has decided to freeze  the unilateral Palestinian initiatives in the United Nations in order to give Kerry's mediation efforts a chance. Abbas has allotted between eight and 12 weeks to see whether the American move will be productive. If the American attempt to renew negotiations fails, the Palestinians are planning to try once again to be accepted as a member state in the various UN agencies.

Senior Israeli officials say that although Netanyahu did not present a map or a written document regarding the borders of the future Palestinian state in talks that took place in Amman in January and February this year, his negotiator, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, presented basic principles on the subject. In those talks Molcho explained that Israel is interested in annexing the large settlement blocs in any future agreement, but would be willing to concede sovereignty in the Jordan Valley in exchange for Palestinian consent to an Israeli military presence in the region for a long interim period.

This coming Sunday, Abbas will meet with Kerry in Amman. On Monday Kerry will leave for talks in Israel and Abbas will fly to the Qatari capital of Doha, where he will meet with members of the Arab League's monitoring committee on the Arab peace initiative – the foreign ministers of Qatar, Jordan, Egypt and several other Arab countries. The object of the meeting is to consolidate a common Arab position regarding a renewal of negotiations with Israel, prior to the committee's meeting with Kerry in Washington later in April.

John Kerry and Mahmoud Abbas.Credit: Reuters, AFP