Palestinians reject US push for peace talks beyond April

Amid reports that Abbas is fuming and Obama is to get more involved, Erekat says no point in ‘prolonging the negotiation’

Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90/File)
Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90/File)

RAMALLAH — A senior Palestinian official on Thursday rejected US moves to extend an April deadline for nine months of hard-won talks with Israel to culminate in a framework peace deal.

“There is no meaning to prolonging the negotiation, even for one more additional hour, if Israel, represented by its current government, continues to disregard international law,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP.

The comments come amid reports Thursday that US President Barack Obama is planning to increase his involvement in pressuring the two sides to accept Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework proposals.

In his scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday in Washington, Obama will make an urgent appeal to the Israeli leader to accept Kerry’s generalized roadmap for final status negotiations, according to The New York Times.

The US president is expected to apply the same pressure to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when the two meet next month.

Obama, since his reelection, has ostensibly given Kerry the reins when it comes to the Middle East conflict, with the secretary making 11 trips to the region since helping to launch a new round of talks in July.

Meanwhile the Israeli government has reportedly unofficially and quietly frozen settlement construction outside the major blocs for the past few months in an apparent acquiescence to American pressure.

According to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth on Thursday, Jordan Valley regional council chief David Elchaiiani asked Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit last week why construction was being held up in the settlements that he administers, even in projects that had received approval from the defense minister. He was told that the order had come from on high not to advance construction plans in settlements outside the major blocs.

However, the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly rejected the framework drafts, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly exploding with rage over the US secretary’s proposals in a two-day meeting in Paris last week, and describing them as “insanity.” The PA president threatened to “overturn tables” and to go back on the flexibility he had shown in order to facilitate US-led peace efforts, according to Palestinian daily Al Quds.

The top American diplomat reportedly offered for Abbas to form a Palestinian capital in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina, not all of East Jerusalem, as the Palestinians have demanded.

Kerry also suggested that Israel keep 10 settlement blocs as part of any territorial exchange, according to Al Quds.

The Jordan Valley would not be part of a future Palestinian state, Palestinian sources told the paper, nor would there be an international force stationed there. And Kerry reportedly demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

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