A senior Palestinian official said Thursday that if there is truth to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s published description of the impending U.S. framework agreement for peace with Israel, the Palestinian leadership cannot accept it as the basis for a final pact.
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According to Friedman’s column on Wednesday, the proposal that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will soon present to both sides includes support for the establishment of the Palestinian capital in the Arab parts of East Jerusalem, but does not include the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel.
“We don’t know what the meaning of a capital in Jerusalem is and how the Americans see Jerusalem and whether this conforms to the Palestinian position.” said the official, who insisted on anonymity. The official added: “The American demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state alongside a vague formulation of the right of return cannot be a basis for any outline that could lead to an agreement.”
The Palestinian Authority had no official response to Friedman’s column. It is believed that the PA’s silence is intentional, assuming that his report was based on leaks and details that are still uncertain. Moreover, the Palestinian negotiating team is now in Washington meeting with Kerry and his team.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said a number of times that he is committed to a nine-month negotiation period and has not yet decided what he will do “the day after.” However, over the past few days the PA seems to have begun sending out feelers to Hamas to once again move reconciliation talks ahead, apparently with the understanding that Hamas is in serious trouble because of the deep crisis with Egypt.
Abbas also made a surprise move over the past few days by sending out positive signals to Tehran. According to Palestinian officials, the Americans did not oppose the move, which occurred only after various Western countries announced their intention to renew ties with Iran. The deputy secretary general of the Fatah Central Committee, Jibril Rajoub, arrived in Tehran as Abbas’ representative and met with senior Iranian officials, among them Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“We are in a very sensitive period and must make decisions and in any case we must enlist the friendly countries and the Arab and Islamic world, including Iran. We at the PA have never closed the door to anyone,” Rajoub said.
In Ramallah some figures also say that moving closer to Iran is actually intended to signal to Hamas that the PA can also forge ties with Tehran, after Hamas lost its backing from Iran because of its support for the uprising in Syria.