A senior Palestinian official accused US Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday of succumbing to Israeli demands to advance two central issues in the peace talks — the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and a continued Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley.
“Israel has succeeded in really persuading Mr. Kerry to change the agenda of the discussions,” Fatah Central Committee Member Nabil Shaath said at a press conference in Ramallah, according to AFP. “Today, you will see Mr. Kerry going back and forth, discussing nothing but two issues. The two issues have never been in our agenda: the Jewishness of the state [of Israel] and the Jordan [Valley].”
These two sticking points, Shaath maintained, will never be agreed upon by the Palestinians and are likely to result in the dissolution of talks.
“You think any Palestinian leader in his right mind can ever accept this?” Shaath remarked regarding the Jewish status of Israel. “Or is this simply instated to make it impossible for any Palestinian leader to sign a peace agreement with Israel?”
Palestinian sources told AFP in early January that Abbas had rebuffed pressure from Kerry to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. They also said the secretary was proposing a joint Israeli-Palestinian presence to control the West Bank-Jordan border, where Israel has insisted on ongoing IDF control and Abbas has sought an international military presence with no Israeli involvement.
A month prior, the Palestinians had rejected a plan proposed by Kerry for an Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley for the first 10 years after the signing of a peace deal.
Neither Kerry’s security proposals, nor his evolving framework deal for ongoing talks, have been made public, but leaked details indicate Israel and the Palestinians are at odds over almost all key issues.
In late November, Shaath publicly stated that the peace talks had already failed and that the Palestinian prisoner releases were the only thing keeping the talks from collapsing. In the past Shaath has expressed opposition to a two-state solution with Israel, calling an arrangement in which there is a Jewish state and Palestinian state existing side-by-side “unacceptable.”
“They can describe Israel itself as a state for two peoples, but we will be a state for one people. The story of “two states for two peoples” means that there will be a Jewish people over there and a Palestinian people here. We will never accept this – not as part of the French initiative and not as part of the American initiative,” he said in 2011.