CMEP Bulletin: Diplomatic Dance Continues While Settlements Expand, Price Tag Increases

CMEP Bulletin: Diplomatic Dance Continues While Settlements Expand, Price Tag Increases

Weekly Churches for Middle East Peace news roundup

Peace Process Has Flat-lined

Iran’s confrontation with the world over its nuclear ambitions dominated headlines about the Middle East this week. However, the diplomatic dance that continues between Israeli and Palestinian leaders is worth noting as well.

Last week, reports indicated that Palestinian leadership discussed with the Arab League the possibility of convening an international peace conference to discuss a “comprehensive solution” to the conflict (see last week’s Bulletin for more info). However this week, there was nary a mention of an international conference from any side.  The rapid decline of this proposal is yet another sign that we will not likely see any progress toward a solution in the near future. Ha’aretz reports, “sources in Israel concede that the talks are over for now and no renewal is in sight.”

Israeli leaders are insisting they gave their best effort, revealing what they offered Palestinians before the talks ended.  Barak Ravid, writing in Ha’aretz gives a detailed timeline from the Israeli perspective of what went on during those five meetings in January. Officials quoted in the story portray the Palestinians as intransigent, resisting talks until pressure from Jordan and the international community forced them back to the negotiating table. While the negotiations were supposedly confidential, Ravid’s article describes in detail the Israeli proposal and Israeli officials renderings of the negotiations that took place behind closed doors.

During what would be the last meeting in Amman on January 25, Israeli Chief Negotiator Yitzak Molcho presented principles for a peace agreement that included:

  1. The border will be drawn in a way that will include the maximum amount of Israelis living in the West Bank, and the minimum amount of Palestinians.
  2. Israel will annex the large settlement blocs, without defining what exactly is considered a ‘bloc,’ nor defining its size.
  3. It is necessary to first solve the problem of borders and security in relation to Judea and Samaria, and only afterwards move to discuss the topic of Jerusalem which is far more complicated.
  4. Israel will maintain a presence in the Jordan Valley for a period of time. Molho did not mention how long nor what kind of presence.

According to Ravid’s report, Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat responded by asking for clarification on the principles, including whether the border will be based on the 1967 lines and what percentage of the West Bank Israel expects to annex in a final agreement. Molcho replied that he would be happy to answer all questions in the next meeting, which never happened. 

The Palestinian Authority’s news agency, Wafa, reported that PA officials condemned the Israeli leaks, which violate the negotiators’ pledge of confidentiality. Erekat wrote a letter to the Middle East Quartet saying the leaks presented “half-truths” and were a public relations stunt. Erekat also stressed that the failure of the talks was, “due to Israeli persistence to build settlements and dictate the course of the negotiations.”

Earlier in the Amman talks, Israel also accused the Palestinians of leaking information from the confidential negotiations. Prime Minister Netanyahu told a group of MKs that while the parties had committed to being “very discreet about the negotiations,” Palestinian negotiator Erekat leaked information to the media.

Click here to continue reading this CMEP Bulletin, including the following items:

  • Settlement expansion; settlement freeze
  • Hunger strike over administrative detention ends
  • Church targeted in “price tag” attacks
  • Gaza power crisis update
  • CMEP 2012 Advocacy Conference registration