Palestinians to Discuss Kerry Proposal to Renew Peace Talks

Palestinian officials will meet today in the West Bank city of Ramallah to decide whether to accept U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposal to renew direct peace talks with Israel after a three-year stalemate.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will brief the Palestine Liberation Organization’s decision-making executive committee and his Fatah party’s central committee on his two meetings with Kerry this week in Amman, Jordan, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said in a statement to the official Palestinian Wafa news agency. Details of the plan have not been disclosed.

“During the meeting, the Palestinian leadership will give its official response to Kerry’s plan on the resumption of the direct peace negotiations with Israel,” Abu Rudeina said in the statement. The meeting is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. local time.

State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said, “There are currently no plans for an announcement on the resumption of negotiations.”

If both Israelis and Palestinians accept Kerry’s proposal, it would lead to the first official negotiations between the sides since September 2010. Those talks, which lasted just three weeks, broke down after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to extend and expand a 10-month building freeze on new construction in West Bank settlements.

Abbas has said building in areas Palestinians seek for a future state must stop for talks to resume. Netanyahu has rejected that demand and called on Palestinians to negotiate without preconditions.

Statehood Aspirations

The Palestinians say they hope to establish a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, areas Israel occupied in 1967. It withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, and the territory is now ruled by Hamas militants.

Israeli President Shimon Peres sounded upbeat about the prospect of getting the sides talking again. “Secretary Kerry has succeeded in boosting the odds of renewing negotiations,” Peres said today, in remarks broadcast on Army Radio.

Kerry said yesterday the distance between Israelis and Palestinians has narrowed “very significantly,” and voiced hope “the sides will soon be able to come to sit at the same table.”

The secretary of state, on his sixth trip to the Mideast in as many months, didn’t provide details about remaining differences. He said, wtihout elaborating, that his proposal to restart talks includes economic, political and security elements.

Same Table

The top U.S. diplomat also met with representatives of the Arab League, which in April revived a decade-old plan to recognize Israel in exchange for a peace agreement with Palestinians that could be facilitated by land swaps.

That proposal “never received the full attention and focus that it should have,” Kerry said. “I’m glad that it is today, because it promises to open up significant potential for normalized relations, with the potential for trade and growth in historic and very important ways.”

Israel “needs to look hard at this initiative,” he added. It “promises Israel peace with 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim nations” that are “standing and waiting for the possibility of making peace with Israel.”

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