Still No Decision on Kerry's Plan |

Majority of Palestinian Leadership Reluctant to Resume Peace Talks, Official Says

At the end of stormy meetings in Ramallah, Palestinians are still undecided on John Kerry's plan to resume negotiations based on 1967 lines, recognition of Israel as Jewish state.

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Most members of the Palestinian leadership are reluctant to accept U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's plan to resume peace talks with Israel, and most don't trust the Netanyahu government, senior Palestinian officials told Haaretz on Thursday.

After a meeting in Ramallah Thursday between the Fatah party's Central Committee in and the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committe, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had still not made a final decision on Kerry's proposal, the officials said, and the Palestinians plan on asking the Americans for further clarifications before deciding.

Information obtained by Haaretz reveals that Thursday's meetings in Ramallah were stormy. Abbas did not manage to get an immediate agreement to restart negotiations, due to the fact that Israel has not yet agreed to resume talks based on 1967 borders.

Kerry was expected to announce Friday the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz Thursday. However, this announcement depended on the decision reached by the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.

After a few hours of deliberations, it was decided that a special committee would be established to discuss the matter Thursday evening after the breaking of the daily Ramadan fast. The committee met later Thursday night to attempt to come to a final decision.

"Some of the members of the committee are in favor of opening negotiations, but most are reluctant, not out of a desire to cause Kerry to fail, or to appear to be refusing, but because the Israeli position is very vague, and unclear," an official Palestinian source told Haaretz.

According to the same source, Palestinian distrust of Netanyahu's government is constant, and it grew even stronger during the discussions when the Palestinian side heard that the government had approved the construction of 165 residential units in the Jerusalem area. "On the one hand, we don't want to respond negatively to Kerry, but on the other there have to be clear positions regarding the terms of restarted negotiations, and so we are passing the ball to the Israeli court," the official said.

Senior Fatah official Amin Maqboul has told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an that the main obstacle facing the resumption of negotiations is Israel’s refusal to hold negotiations on the basis of the 1967 borders. “We wanted Kerry to state this and to deliver this in writing to the Israelis as the official American position. However, the response coming from Netanyahu’s bureau this [Thursday] evening declared his opposition to this principle, demonstrating that Netanyahu and his government still embrace the settlements over a two-state solution.”

Kerry's plan

The senior Israeli official said that Kerry would unveil in his announcement an outline for the talks: negotiations on borders will be based on the 1967 lines, with land swaps – taking into account the current reality in the West Bank, i.e. the major settlement blocs.

Kerry is expected to say that the goal of the negotiations will be to reach the reality of "two states for two people" – Palestine as a Palestinian state and Israel as a Jewish state.

The Israeli official stressed that according to the understandings Kerry has reached with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas, each side will be able to declare publicly its reservations to the outline.

The Palestinians are entitled to say that they will not accept the principle of Israel as a Jewish state, and the Israeli can say they are not prepared to return to the 1967 lines. Despite any opposition voiced, however, the two sides are expected to return to the negotiating table.

President Shimon Peres hinted earlier Thursday at the progress, saying the renewal of peace talks was "within reach" due to Kerry's efforts.

Peres also urged European Union not to publish its new guidelines regarding Israeli settlements to avoid thwarting peace talks.

"From the latest information I have, Kerry has succeeded in promoting the chances of opening negotiations," Peres said. "The coming days will be critical, but we are within reach. I believe that the enormous effort is proving fruitful on the Israeli side and the Palestinian side. Both sides are making a supreme effort to overcome the latest obstacles.

Abbas, left, attends a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, July 18, 2013.Credit: Reuters
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, May 28, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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