The two-state solution supported by all, notably the United States, is losing air – irrespective of the Palestinian attitude on extending the negotiations, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian negotiating team said on Tuesday, with the hope of deflating American pressure to extend the deadline for peace talks.
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During his meeting on Monday with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, Abbas whipped out a map and a paper written by the negotiating team, listing Israel’s plans to build thousands of housing units in the West Bank.
According to a senior Palestinian source, Abbas clarified to Obama that unless settlement construction is frozen, and so are the plans, his position on extending the deadline for negotiations wouldn’t matter. In practice, Abbas reportedly said, creating two states would be impossible.
“Following the resumption of negotiations on July 30, 2013, Israeli violations of international law and human rights continued unabated,” the paper states. It goes on to quote Amnesty International accusing Israeli forces of using “excessive force to stifle dissent and freedom of expression, resulting in a pattern of unlawful killings and injuries to civilians, including children.”
Washington is pressing for the talks to advance with the goal of achieving two states for two peoples in mind, said the senior Palestinian source. “But in practice, the settlements keep expanding. More and more housing units are being added. According to information we have, which is based in part on Israeli publications, since the start of negotiations this government has planned more than 5,000 housing units in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, and a similar number is in advanced planning stages.”
The paper states that since negotiations resumed, work has begun on 10,509 housing units.
“The operative meaning is that at the end of the process, the Palestinians won’t have a contiguous area and territory on which a sovereign Palestinian state could arise. And that is what President Abbas and the chairman of the negotiating team tried to explain to the president, that another extension of the talks and another meeting won’t advance a thing as long as settlement construction continues.”
During his meeting with Obama, which has been described as “candid” and “difficult,” Abbas painted a gloomy picture of the mood on the Palestinian street, describing the suspicion and lack of faith the people have towards the negotiations.
Meanwhile, Palestinian officials were infuriated about comments from Israeli politicians that Israel might hold up the fourth release of Palestinian prisoners, unless the Palestinians agree to extend the negotiations’ deadline.
Delay in releasing the prisoners is tantamount to “political blackmail,” the PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an. That would be in contradiction to all the understandings reached ahead of the negotiations.
“Back then the Americans promised that in exchange for not turning to the United Nations [to seek statehood], 104 veteran prisoners would be released, according to a list of names. Now Israel is trying tricks, to extract more concessions from the Palestinians,” a high-ranking Palestinian told Haaretz. “Failure to carry out the fourth round of prisoner releases, according to the list, which includes 14 Israeli Arab prisoners, would release the PA from the understanding.” It would then be free to approach the UN, according to the directives of President Abbas, the source said.