Gaps are widening between Israelis and Palestinians, a senior Palestinian official said, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry struggles to draft a blueprint meant to guide peace talks to a final accord.
Mohammad Shtayyeh, who negotiated on behalf of the Palestinians until November, said Israel was willing to cede 40 percent of the West Bank to a future state of Palestine, less than half the area previous Israeli governments have offered.
Other points of contention include Israel’s demands to be recognized as Jewish state and to maintain a long-term security presence in areas of the West Bank bordering Jordan, Shtayyeh said in an interview in Ramallah, West Bank. The two sides also remain far apart on the fates of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, he said.
Disagreement is “growing. It’s not narrowing at all,” Shtayyeh said. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who met with Kerry in Paris last week, will visit President Barack Obama at the White House on March 16 or 17 to discuss the state of talks, he added. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Obama in Washington on March 3.
While Shtayyeh is no longer a negotiator, he retains a senior position in the Palestinian leadership as a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s decision-making central committee.
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