A planned meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams was delayed for a day Wednesday, officials on both sides said.
A Palestinian official told AFP the meeting was pushed off in order to allow US envoy Martin Indyk to arrive in the region and take part in the talks, but an Israeli official said the postponement was due to a West Bank shooting attack on Monday that killed a senior Israeli police officer and injured his wife and son.
The meeting had been scheduled for Wednesday, but was moved to Thursday.
“The meeting that was planned for tonight between Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams will not be taking place. It’s being postponed,” an Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Efforts to revive and extend talks beyond their April 29 deadline took another heavy blow after Baruch Mizrahi, a father of five, was shot dead by Palestinian terrorists near the West Bank city of Hebron as he drove to celebrate the traditional Passover banquet with his family.
The victim was killed when the family’s car was struck by several bullets. Mizrahi’s pregnant wife was in stable condition after the attack, and was evacuated to the Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem. Mizrahi was laid to rest on Wednesday.
An Israeli official said Monday’s terror attack “was the direct result of ongoing incitement and glorification of terrorism that we see in the official Palestinian media and education system.”
Despite the attack, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with a group of dovish Israeli Knesset members and told them he is willing to maintain security cooperation with Israel even if peace talks are not being held, Israeli media reported. He also condemned the killings of all civilians and reportedly said he was dismayed that Israel was not working with PA security forces to track down the Hebron gunman.
The US has been taking steps to revive talks that began to deteriorate rapidly at the end of March after Israel nixed a planned release of Palestinian prisoners and Abbas applied for Palestinian membership to 15 international agencies, despite a commitment to not take such a step.
Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended contact between Israeli and Palestinian officials as part of punitive measures against the PA for the applications to international bodies. However, the ban did not include contact between Defense Ministry officials and their Palestinian counterparts, enabling joint security work in the West Bank to continue.
Palestinian Authority Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud al-Habash told a group of Israeli journalists in Ramallah on Wednesday that one of the conditions the Palestinians have laid down for continuation of the negotiations is that Israel present a map that shows the borders between a future Palestinian state and Israel. The issue of the map and the delineation of state lines are matters that keep coming up again and again between the two sides, Habash said.
He added that the PA will not agree to be a ruling body without power and that the current situation will not continue beyond the end of the year. Habash warned that the price of failed peace talks is likely to be painfully heavy and hinted that the PA is likely to fall apart if talks fail.