Palestinian officials failed to reach a decision yesterday on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s plan to renew direct peace talks with Israel after a three-year hiatus.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas briefed the Palestine Liberation Organization’s decision-making executive committee and his Fatah party’s central committee on his two discussions with Kerry this week in Amman, Jordan. The meeting, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, concluded with a decision to form a subcommittee to continue debate on the proposal, PLO official Wasel Abu Yousef said in an e-mailed statement.
“The general official attitude is that there will be no resumption of peace negotiations with Israel, until Israel accepts the basic Palestinian demands of halting settlement building, recognizing a Palestinian state along 1967 borders, and releases Palestinian prisoners imprisoned before the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993,” Abu Yousef said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected these demands, saying he will only agree to talk without preconditions. Details of Kerry’s proposal to bridge the gap between the sides haven’t been disclosed.
“It is appropriate and encouraging that there is such a serious debate about these issues,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “We understand that there are many strongly held views and appreciate efforts to find a basis to move forward.”
Kerry plans to leave for Washington today “after consulting with the parties,” according to the statement.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Netanyahu by phone yesterday and urged the Israeli leader to keep working with Kerry on reopening the Middle East peace talks, according to a White House statement.
Acceptance of Kerry’s plan by both Israelis and Palestinians would lead to the first official negotiations between the sides since September 2010. Those talks, which lasted just three weeks, broke down after Netanyahu declined to extend and expand a 10-month building freeze on new construction in West Bank settlements.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said on Army Radio earlier yesterday that Kerry has “succeeded in boosting the odds of renewing negotiations.” Kerry said July 17 the distance between Israelis and Palestinians has narrowed “very significantly.”