A U.S. State Department official said Thursday there are no plans to announce a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after the Israeli government denied that it agreed to base new talks on the 1967 lines.
“There are currently no plans for an announcement for the resumption of negotiations,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday in Amman, on the last day of Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the Middle East, his sixth in recent weeks in an effort to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
The news came after both sides indicated they are leaning toward resuming negotiations.
A participant in a high-level Palestinian meeting on Kerry’s peace efforts said the gathering had ended without a decision, but officials seemed willing to accept Kerry’s initiative.
He said they have appointed a special committee to further consider the measure. The committee is meeting late Thursday, and a decision is expected by Friday.
Earlier in the day, a senior Israeli source said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to resume negotiations with the Palestinians based on the 1967 lines, according to a Reuters report.
The information was quickly dismissed by Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev, who said it was untrue.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, for his part, had agreed to a formulation that would acknowledge the Jewish nature of Israel, according to the report.
President Shimon Peres on Thursday said Kerry was on the brink of success in his ongoing effort to resume talks.
“From the latest information at my disposal, Secretary Kerry has succeeded in advancing the chance for opening peace talks,” said Peres. “I am grateful for his efforts and I know that the endeavor is a serious one. The coming days are crucial and we are within reach.
“I believe that the significant effort will bear fruit on both the Israeli and the Palestinian side — both parties are making an effort to overcome the final obstacles,” he continued.
Indications that the Palestinians might return to the negotiating table first emerged earlier Thursday when senior Palestinian officials told the Arab press that the Palestinians would likely announce they were ready to resume talks with Israel.
The officials said that Netanyahu has agreed to a partial settlement freeze and is willing to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 lines. The freeze would not apply to Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs, the reports said. The reported progress came after a five-hour dinner meeting Wednesday night between Kerry and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas was to present Kerry’s outline for the talks to the PLO leadership in Ramallah on Thursday. Palestinian officials said there was a very good chance the plan would be approved. Kerry has been spearheading an intensive American effort to revive peace talks, which last broke down in 2010.
Thus far, Abbas has refused to negotiate unless Israel halts all construction in West Bank settlements, which it last did in 2009. Recently, Israel has rejected Palestinian demands for a blanket freeze, saying negotiations should resume without the imposition of Palestinian preconditions. Kerry has offered the Palestinians a package of economic incentives worth $4 billion to restart the talks.
Reportedly, the US upped pressure on the Palestinians to agree to talks during the five-hour dinner meeting, with Kerry threatening to hold up American economic aid to the PA if Abbas continued to refuse to come to the table. He also demanded a yes or no answer from Abbas as to whether he would negotiate with Netanyahu when all the outstanding issues are up for discussion, while reportedly informing him that the Israeli prime minister had agreed to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 lines, and would announce this publicly.
In his comments to foreign journalists, Peres also criticized Tuesday’s European Union decision that denies European funding to, and cooperation with, Israeli institutions based or operating over the Green Line, and stipulates that all future agreements between Israel and the EU to include a clause in which Israel accepts the European Union’s position that all territory over the Green Line does not belong to Israel.
“The relations between Israel and the European Union are friendly,” said Peres, “and I have great respect for the European Union — I turn to our friends in Europe and say, ‘Wait with your decision — make peace a priority. Don’t put in place irresponsible sanctions which will damage the peace process.'”
He denounced the EU decision as “unnecessary and untimely,” and charged that it “could lead to another crisis to our region.”