Friday, January 27, 2012

PLO: Israel gave no reason to restart talks

A section of the Israeli separation is seen between the Shuafat refugee camp in
and Pisgat Zeev in an area Israel illegally annexed after capturing it in 1967 on
Jan. 27 (Reuters/Baz Ratner)


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- PLO meetings with Israeli envoys have not been able to restart negotiations, a Palestinian presidential spokesman said Friday, after Israel said it had fulfilled its obligation to the Quartet-sponsored talks.

Israel did not provide anything to build upon, while the issue of borders and security is still pending, Nabil Abu Rudeineh told Ma'an.

PLO officials held five exploratory meetings with Israeli negotiators in the Jordanian capital during January. The diplomatic Quartet had called for the sides to give their positions on borders and security by Jan. 26.

At the first summit on Jan. 3, the PLO gave Israel a proposal for resolving border and security issues, and Israel promised to respond in future meetings, Jordanian Foreign Minster Nasser Judeh said at the time.

Later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said negotiators handed a 21 point proposal to the meetings, which PLO official Nabil Shaath said lacked any detail and was "rather a composition about peace done by a high school student."

In the final meeting before the Quartet deadline, Israeli delegate Yitzhak Molcho on Wednesday gave a verbal presentation on borders and security, which an Israeli official said was to meet the Quartet request.

But a PLO official told Reuters that no maps were presented at the meeting and the presentation "killed the two-state solution, set aside previous agreements and international law."

The idea presented by Molcho "does not include Jerusalem and the Jordan valley, and includes almost all (Israeli) settlements", he said.

"Basically, the Israeli idea of a Palestinian state is made up of a wall and settlements," he said.

The Jordan valley makes up around 30 percent of the West Bank, and occupied East Jerusalem is roundly considered as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Israel: Breakthrough illogical

An Israeli official said Molcho presented guiding principles that determine Israel's positions on the territorial issue, and called for talks to continue.

Israel's approach to territorial compromise in the occupied West Bank includes the principal that "most Israelis will be under Israeli sovereignty and obviously most Palestinians will be under Palestinian sovereignty," the official said.

He noted that Netanyahu had acknowledged, in a speech to the United States Congress, that not all Jewish settlements "will be on our side of the border" of a future Palestinian state.

"We think it is very important that these talks continue. They are only at a preliminary stage, but they contain potential and obviously in less than a month it would have been illogical to talk about a breakthrough," he said.

"But in many ways the talks are progressing better than expected and it would indeed be a pity to bring about a premature ending of this process."

'Nothing new'

But Palestinian officials say talks cannot continue without serious proposals, and a halt to Israeli settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land.

"The Israelis brought nothing new in these meetings," an official familiar with the talks told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Abu Rudeineh told Ma'an: "Israel's response does not lead us to real negotiations."

President Mahmoud Abbas will meet the Fatah Central Committee to discuss the outcome of the talks, before briefing the Arab League follow-up committee on Feb. 4, the spokesman said.

The Arab world and the president will not allow Palestinian aspirations to fail, he added.

On Thursday, the presidential spokesman told Reuters TV Israel's refusal to stop building illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land was blocking a return to negotiations.

The last round of direct negotiations collapsed within weeks in September 2010 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a partial freeze on settlement construction despite pleas and offers of incentives from Washington.

Reuters contributed to this report


Maan News Agency