The Palestinians insist upon “a clear formula” concerning final borders and the release of detainees in Israeli jails before returning to direct negotiations with Israel, and economic incentives suggested by US Secretary of State John Kerry during his recent visit will not suffice, Palestinian Authority sources said Wednesday.
Despite the renewed push by Washington to jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, there are as yet “no signs” of a breakthrough, Haaretz reported Wednesday.
According to a Palestinian official close to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, “the Palestinian issue is mainly a political one, not an economic one” and therefore “the economic gestures that are being discussed can improve the situation… but only in the short run.”
“The situation is quite clear,” he said. “The Palestinians have stated that renewed negotiations must be based on a clear formula which will include the determination of Palestine’s borders and the release of prisoners. As long as Israel does not agree to this, we cannot talk of discussions that will lead to a settlement of the conflict.”
Kerry, who this week spent three days in the region for high-level negotiations on the Israeli-Arab peace process, said on Tuesday that “we want to make it absolutely clear that whatever steps we take with respect to economics are in no way a substitute, but they are in addition to the political track. The political track is first and foremost; other things may happen to supplement it.”
Kerry, who will spend the next weeks and months engaging in shuttle diplomacy between Washington, Jerusalem, and Ramallah — trying to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table — said his talks were “very constructive.”
US President Barack Obama, during his visit in March, endorsed Israel’s position in favor of new talks without preconditions. Still, Abbas is understood to be demanding assurances that Israel is prepared in principle to relinquish 100% of the West Bank, with various one-for-one land swaps to enable Israel to keep key settlement blocs.
Palestinian sources said Abbas wants to see an Israeli map setting out Netanyahu’s territorial positions up front, which the prime minister refuses to provide, believing it will be seized upon by the Palestinians as the basis for new territorial demands.
On Wednesday Kerry continued his Middle-Eastern diplomatic efforts by meeting with Syrian opposition leaders and Russia’s top diplomat in London, a day after saying the US could soon step up aid to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Kerry attended a lunch alongside the Syrian opposition’s interim prime minister and other senior figures. He later meets one-on-one with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Kerry was in London for a G8 foreign ministers’ meeting Wednesday and Thursday. Before leaving Israel, he said the Obama administration was holding intense talks on how to boost aid to Syria’s rebels.