Israeli Official: Palestinians Giving Kerry Two Weeks to Renew Peace Talks

Abbas threatens to resume unilateral moves at the UN if U.S. fails to deliver comprehensive formula to jump-start negotiations.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has given U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry two more weeks, until June 20, to receive a clearly formulated offer to renew negotiations before the Palestinians resume their unilateral moves at the United Nations, a senior Israeli official has told Haaretz.

The official said that the Palestinians informed Kerry a few weeks ago that they would wait until June 7 to receive a proposal from him, but over the past few days Kerry spoke with Abbas twice in order to buy more time to reach a formula that would jump-start the talks.

The Israeli official said that Abbas had tried to demand that Kerry obtain gestures from Israel in exchange for the two additional weeks, such as the release of a few Palestinian prisoners. Kerry rejected the Palestinian demand outright, and Abbas withdrew it.

Kerry said Monday in a speech in Washington that the coming days are critical for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Kerry intends to arrive in Israel on Tuesday to hold another round of talks − the fifth − with both sides.

Senior American and Israeli officials said that Kerry is very frustrated by the lack of progress in talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas. Over the past few days, officials close to Kerry have begun briefing the press that if the deadlock persists, the American administration will abandon the peace process and Kerry will move on to other burning issues, such as ties with Russia and China.

Senior Israeli officials claim that contrary to the past, Kerry is frustrated mainly by Abbas’ conduct, and that Kerry believes that the Palestinian leader is creating obstacles to the renewal of negotiations with Israel. According to the officials, Kerry’s latest talks with Abbas were hard as Kerry pressured the Palestinian president to lift his preconditions for the start of talks − a freeze on construction in the settlements and negotiations based on the pre-1967 Six-Day War borders.

Kerry is also said to be frustrated with the Israeli side. For example, he has failed so far in his attempts to persuade Netanyahu to take confidence-building measures to encourage Abbas back to the negotiating table. Netanyahu has refused Kerry’s request to release Palestinian prisoners or extend other gestures before the talks are renewed. Netanyahu has made clear that such gestures will be made, if at all, only after the parties return to the negotiating table.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.Credit: AP

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