U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to announce Friday the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz.
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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."
Meeting in Ramallah
Meanwhile, Abbas presented Kerry's initiative to restart talks at a meeting of the Fatah party's Central Committee in Ramallah on Thursday. The Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee was expected to convene after the end of the first meeting to hear about the initiative before reaching a decision on it. Various figures received indications that peace talks would proceed and that the parties would enter another round of direct talks, a senior Palestinian official said. He added that no one knows how the direct talks would end but initial assessments were pessimistic.
A Palestinian source involved in the meeting told Haaretz that so far Abbas has not presented details that could lead to a breakthrough, and that, on the face of it, there will not be a final decision Thursday. The source predicted that a decision would be postponed until the next round of Kerry's diplomatic efforts, and that further explanations will be sought from Kerry.
A fundamental issue that has yet to be clarified is whether Palestinians will accept Israel's demands to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians have previously objected to this demand, stating that the character of Israel is not their concern; however, recognition would likely affect talks on core issues like Palestinian refugees, the right of return, and the status of Palestinian citizens of Israel.
At the same time, the families of Israeli Arab security prisoners sentenced and imprisoned by Israel before the signing of the Oslo Accords have contacted Abbas' office in the past 24 hours to urge him not to budge on demands to free them. There are 12 Arab Israeli security prisoners currently in jail in Israel who were sentenced before the Oslo Accords. Some of these prisoners are serving sentences of up to 30 years.
Intensive talks between Kerry, Abbas and a delegation of nine foreign ministers from Arab League countries, took place on Wednesday and Tuesday in Amman.
The nine Arab League minister at the conclusion of the meetings gave Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas their full backing to return to the negotiating table. They also praised Kerry’s efforts.
In his remarks to the media, Peres urged the European Union to consider holding off on its sanctions against Israeli settlements in light of this progress. "Wait if you have decided, make peace the priority," said Peres. "Don't bring forward irresponsible sanctions that will sabotage peace negotiations."
Also Thursday, Knesset opposition leader and Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to use consider the European Union sanctions as an impetus to renew negotiations immediately.
"The European Union document is a painful reminder of national security, economic and strategic threats attached to a peace process freeze," Yacimovich wrote to Netanyahu. "It would be fleeing from responsibility and a lack of leadership to continue passively responding to events instead of initiating them. The present conclusion must be unequivocal: an immediate entry into peace talks with the Palestinians with the real intention of reaching an agreement."
Yacimovich also promised Netanyahu in her letter that the Labor Party would provide its strong backing of his peace talk efforts, even if such talks would cause him political difficulties with other groups.