Arab League Rallying Behind Abbas on Peace Process Meltdown

Calls emergency meeting next week at PA leader's request; blames crisis in talks on Israel's refusal to release prisoners.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the Arab League Summit in Bayan Palace, Kuwait March 25, 2014.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the Arab League Summit in Bayan Palace, Kuwait March 25, 2014. Credit: Reuters

The Arab League, acting on a request from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called for an emergency meeting of its 22 member states on Wednesday to discuss the meltdown in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Australia's SBS-TV reported.

Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi, who convened the meeting for April 9, blamed the crisis on "Israel's refusal to release a fourth tranche of prisoners and extend talks."

This would make the second time in two weeks that Abbas has gone to the Arab League for regional backing before taking a tough stand in the talks presided over by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

U.S. officials were quoted Wednesday as saying Kerry had gone as far as he could go in mediating the talks, which began last July, and that it was now up to the Israelis and Palestinians to move forward on their own volition.

The freefall in the process began when Israel refused to free the 26 Palestinian security prisoners scheduled for release last Friday, citing the Palestinian Authority's refusal to first commit to extending the talks beyond their April 29 deadline.

When the Palestinians threatened to bolt the talks, Kerry began trying to put together a deal in which Israel would release the agreed-upon 26 prisoners plus 400 others being held on relatively minor charges, and slow settlement construction outside East Jerusalem. In return, the Palestinians would agree to extend the talks into 2015 along with their pledge not to pursue statehood unilaterally via the United Nations or other international bodies.

Kerry's reported "sweetener" in the deal for Israel was the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American Jewish spy for Israel who has been imprisoned in the United States since 1985.

However, the suggestion of Pollard's release was met with wall-to-wall opposition in the United States. Meanwhile, Israel published tenders for 700 new apartments in a large Jewish neighborhood of East Jerusalem, the PA officially applied to the United Nations for the state of Palestine to become a signatory to 15 UN human rights conventions, and in response, Kerry canceled his emergency visit on Wednesday to Jerusalem and Ramallah.

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