Kerry said trying to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

US secretary of state reportedly suggests to Netanyahu new negotiations, release of fourth group of prisoners

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Then US secretary of state John Kerry talks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (on the phone) from his hotel room in Cairo, Egypt, on July 25, 2014. (AFP/Pool)
Then US secretary of state John Kerry talks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (on the phone) from his hotel room in Cairo, Egypt, on July 25, 2014. (AFP/Pool)

Palestinian sources claimed US Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had spoken on the phone about the possibility of restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks alongside a number of gestures to the Palestinians, including a previously canceled prisoner release.

Israel Radio, citing the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, said on Monday that Netanyahu did not accede to the proposal.

The sources also revealed that Palestinian officials Saeb Erekat and Majid Faraj were due to travel to Washington on Tuesday to present Kerry with a new Palestinian proposal.

The proposal likely calls for the Palestinian Authority to delay a bid to have the United Nations Security Council define a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, as well as moves to join international bodies, according to Israel Radio, citing Arab media reports. Instead, the sides would spend four months in negotiations defining borders.

Over the past week, there has been increased talk of reviving talks between Israel and the Palestinians after a previous round of negotiations fell apart in April with no results. During the nine months of talks, Israel released three rounds of Palestinian prisoners but balked at a fourth and last release.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is expected to next week update the Arab League about developments in Washington.

Abbas has made various statements in the past week about new initiatives and the consequences if they fail. During an interview with Egyptian television, Abbas said he would soon propose an unconventional diplomatic resolution to the Palestinian conflict, one that is likely to make the US unhappy.

He said the plan would be presented to Kerry during an upcoming visit to the region, and added that the secretary of state was unlikely to accept it, according to a Haaretz translation. Palestinian sources close to Abbas told Haaretz that the plan would involve handing over responsibility for a resolution to the conflict to international forces.

During another interview with Palestinian TV, Abbas said he intends to demand that Israel and the US outline specific borders for a Palestinian state. If Israel does not respond, “we have what to do,” he said in an apparent veiled threat to take Palestinian demands to the international community.

Netanyahu rejected negotiations on the basis of the pre-1967 lines when Kerry launched his unsuccessful effort at peace talks last year. In recent weeks, the prime minister has said the conflict with Hamas underlines his concern with the need to maintain security control of the West Bank to ensure that the area not turn into another Gaza.

Last week, unconfirmed media reports said that Netanyahu and Abbas met secretly in Amman, Jordan, ahead of agreed ceasefire to halt the fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Ramallah was heavily involved in talks to end the fighting, and the ceasefire was announced by Abbas last week.

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority collapsed after nine months in April amid mutual recriminations that each side refused to live up to its pre-talks commitments. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni led the Israeli delegation while Saeb Erekat fronted the Palestinian team.

Israel officially suspended peace talks after Abbas agreed to a unity pact with the Islamist group Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel. Before that, Palestinians applied to join a series of international treaties in contravention of understandings with the US and Israel, an apparent reaction to Israel’s own refusal to go ahead with a scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners.

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