Palestinians: Peace Talks Won't Resume Without Israeli Consent to Basis of 1967 Borders

Palestinians still waiting for invitation to Washington talks; PLO sources attribute delay to Israeli demands that Kerry add new clause to outline for talks, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

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As of Monday afternoon, Palestinian Authority officials had still not received an official American invitation to preparatory talks with Israel, to be held in Washington this week. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and PA negotiator Saeb Erekat agreed to the preliminary outline for the talks. The Palestinian leadership presented a shared written invitation for talks with Israel as a condition for their resumption, during a contentious meeting last Thursday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Following that meeting, Abbas announced the renewal of talks.

Because the invitation was supposed to be sent to Israel, Palestine Liberation Organization sources told Haaretz that they concluded that the delay indicated that Israel was not accepting the pre-talks draft agreed upon with the Palestinians. The outline stated that the underlying premise for the talks would be the establishment of a territorially contiguous Palestinian state on the basis of 1967 borders with territorial exchanges agreed upon by both sides. Sources in PLO circles stated that they believed that Israel was demanding additions to the outline, like recognition of Israel as Jewish state and the consideration of demographic changes in determining borders, which Palestinians oppose. Consequently, PLO figures told Haaretz that while at first it was understood that both sides would receive the same written invitation from the United States, in the end Israel might receive a different invitation with a special appendix attached.

During a meeting held Sunday evening by the Palestinian leadership, including members of the PLO's Executive Committee as well as other groups, it was decided to reject any effort to alter the principle of negotiations based on 1967 borders. Likewise, it was agreed that the meeting in Washington would not take place without an Israeli promise to free all ethnic Palestinian security prisoners, including Israeli citizens, held in Israeli prisons since before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Abbas was not present at Sunday's meeting. The Palestinians are also requesting the release of additional security prisoners during negotiations.

A senior PLO official told Haaretz that Abbas was prepared to resume negotiations without all the conditions demanded by the Palestinian leadership, but that he was forced to accede to those who are adamant about adhering to these conditions. Many in PLO and Fatah party circles expressed doubts about the chances for successful negotiations even if both sides could overcome initial difficulties. Abbas himself has now become careful not to declare the complete renewal of peace talks. In an interview with Jordanian newspaper Al-Rai, Abbas said that the question of renewing talks would be decided in a few days and that Kerry had received the Palestinian proposals for resuming negotiations. Abbas also said during the interview that Palestinians would vote on any future agreement with Israel, in a national referendum.

On Monday, Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Sha'ath told Palestinian news agency Maan that the Palestinians were waiting for the demands presented to the United States to be met before beginning direct talks with Israel. Sha'ath's words appeared to coincide with statements made by PLO Executive Committee Secretary General Yasser Abed Rabbo on Sunday during an interview with the Voice of Palestine radio station. Abed Rabbo said during the interview that the Palestinian leadership had yet to reach a final decision about negotiations and that such a decision would depend on clarifications regarding the framework for talks. First and foremost among issues requiring clarifications, Abed Rabbo said, would be borders and the freeing of Palestinian prisoners – issues that are supposed to be cleared up during the preliminary talks due to take place in Washington at the end of this week.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (left) attends a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to discuss efforts to renew peace talks.Credit: Reuters

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