Israeli, Palestinian Officials Due to Meet in Jordan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's special envoy expected to discuss security arrangements and border issues with chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat.

For the first time in months, official Israeli government representatives will meet with Palestinian officials in Amman on Tuesday, at the behest of King Abdullah of Jordan.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's envoy for peace process, Issac Molho, is expected to discuss security arrangements and border issues with chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, with the participation of Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, who will mediate between the parties.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh flashing a victory sign in front of the Mavi Marmara in Istanbul, 2012.
Osman Orsal, Reuters

Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the two will first meet with representatives of the Middle East Quartet the United Nations, United States, EU and Russia. The Quartet has asked both sides to come prepared to present their positions on security arrangements and borders.

Palestinian sources stressed that they have no expectation of a diplomatic breakthrough in the short term, both because of the composition of the Israeli government and because of the U.S. presidential election campaign that is starting to get under way. They believe that there will be no progress in peace negotiations until after the American election in November.

They did note, however, that on January 26 the 90-day deadline the Quartet had set for resuming talks would pass.

'After January 26, we have many steps we can take and we will consider how to proceed,' a Palestinian official said.

Another Palestinian source said that a committee appointed by the PLO Executive Committee would consider the options the group and the Palestinian Authority have after January 26.

Possibilities include asking the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state, going back to the UN General Assembly to try to get recognition as a non-member state, asking the General Assembly to apply the Geneva Convention to the West Bank as occupied Palestinian territory, asking the Security Council to pass a resolution against building in the settlements and asking the Security Council to send international observers to the West Bank.

Dismantling the PA is not being considered, the source said. Meanwhile, talks are continuing in the effort to set up a Palestinian unity government between Hamas and Fatah. On February 2, the heads of the PLO member factions are due to meet in Cairo with representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to discuss their next moves.

On Monday, Hamas called on the PA to resist any pressure to resume peace talks with Israel that might be brought to bear during Tuesday's meeting in Amman. But Palestinian sources said they do not regard Tuesday's meeting as a resumption of direct negotiations, but rather a clarification meeting in response to King Abdullah's request.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak described the Amman meeting to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee as "negotiating about negotiations," and said it was meant to determine whether there is a chance to begin meaningful direct talks on borders and security arrangements.

Barak added that it was important to avoid having the international community view Israel as responsible for the breakdown of the peace process.

King Abdullah is expected to travel to Washington later this month to meet with U.S. President Barak Obama to discuss the stalemate in the peace process.

A senior Israeli official said that the Jordanians fear the continued diplomatic freeze will lead to a violent outburst that could threaten the kingdom's stability.