CMEP Bulletin: Amman Talks Stall While Unhelpful Rhetoric Continues
weekly Churches for Middle East Peace news update
After five meetings in Amman between Israeli and Palestinian official envoys this month, this latest round of talks stalled this week with little evidence of progress. The low-level talks to discuss borders and security issues were aimed at bringing Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, and now each side is trying to finger the other for blame in the failed efforts.
Early in the negotiating process, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat presented his government’s proposal on borders and security to the Israelis, fulfilling the call by the Middle East Quartet for such proposals set forth in its September 23, 2011 statement.
During the last meeting on January 25, Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho verbally communicated the series of principles that would guide Israel’s negotiations on the borders and security issues. While the meetings in Amman were not public, an Israeli official commented this week that Molcho’s presentation included the principle that “the majority of Palestinians should be on the Palestinian side and the majority of Jews on our side.”
While this is the first time that Israel has formally presented how it will seek to handle territorial negotiations, Palestinian officials assert that Israel brought nothing new to the table. One official told the Jerusalem Post that, “basically, the Israeli idea of a Palestinian state is made up of a wall and settlements.”
No additional meetings have been scheduled at this time and Palestinians argue that the Quartet deadline for proposals by both parties on borders and security passed on Thursday, unfulfilled by Israel. However, Israel has indicated its desire for the talks to continue and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is facing increasing pressure from Quartet leaders for Palestinian participation in future meetings. He has indicated that he plans to consult with the Arab League when it meets in Cairo on February 4 as to whether or not Palestinians should continue the talks.
It is not clear if Israel has made any overtures to the Palestinians to convince them the talks will be meaningful. Quartet officials who are involved in the process say the European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is trying to put together a package of Israeli incentives that will keep the Palestinians talking. One possible incentive would be the release of Palestinian prisoners.
On Abbas’ diplomatic tour of Europe last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister David Cameron both placed the onus on Netanyahu to find a solution to the impasse. The two European leaders spoke on the phone Saturday evening and published a statement, which Ha’aretz summarized as saying: “The government of Israel must evince more willingness to conduct negotiations with the Palestinians, they said, and must take specific steps to prevent the failure of the talks.”
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