On his trip to Washington this week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected US Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework document for continued peace talks with Israel, and issued “three no’s” on core issues, leaving the negotiations heading for an explosive collapse, an Israeli TV report said Friday.
Abbas “went to the White House and said ‘no’ to Obama,” Channel 2 news reported, quoting unnamed American and Israeli sources.
Specifically, the report said, Abbas rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that he recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He also refused to abandon the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for millions of Palestinians and their descendants — a demand that, if implemented, would drastically alter Israel’s demographic balance and which no conceivable Israeli government would accept. And finally, he refused to commit to an “end of conflict,” under which a peace deal would represent the termination of any further Palestinian demands of Israel.
Israel has indicated that it may not release a fourth and final group of Palestinian prisoners at the end of this month, as agreed to when the current talks began last July, if Abbas does not first agree to extend the talks beyond their scheduled cessation next month. Since Abbas rejected the Kerry framework for extending the talks, the TV report said, the negotiations were now heading for an “explosion.”
Abbas returned on Thursday from the US, having held talks with Obama on Monday, and was met at his Ramallah compound by hundreds of cheering supporters.
“We carried the deposit, and we are guarding the deposit,” Abbas told those supporters somewhat cryptically. “You know all the conditions and circumstances, and I say to you that capitulating is not a possibility.” Abbas did not specify what he meant by the “deposit.”
During Monday’s meeting in Washington, Obama told Abbas that he would have to make tough political decisions and take “risks” for peace, as would Netanyahu. Abbas, for his part, reiterated his rejection of Israel’s demand that its status as a Jewish state be enshrined in a future peace accord, asserting that previous Palestinian recognition of Israel was sufficient.
“Everyone understands the outlines of what a peace deal would look like,” Obama said, describing an agreement that reflected the pre-1967 lines with agreed land swaps.
Sitting next to the president, Abbas spoke through a translator, thanking Obama for the opportunity to come to the White House and for the “economic and political support the US is extending to the Palestinian state so it can stand on its own feet.”
He outlined the Palestinian positions for negotiations, including “working for a solution that is based on international legitimacy and also the borders — the 1967 borders — so that the Palestinians can have their own independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital and so that we can find a fair and lasting solution to the refugee problem.”
On Thursday, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry notified Abbas that it is prepared to apply for full membership in international institutions if Israel fails to complete the fourth and final release of Palestinian prisoners jailed before the signing of the Oslo Accords, scheduled for March 29.
Israel agreed to release 104 such prisoners in four stages over the nine-month negotiating period, in return for a Palestinian commitment not to apply for membership in international bodies.
A number of Israeli cabinet members, including Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, have publicly opposed the final release, which the Palestinians want to include 14 Israeli citizens, something Israel has rejected.
Lazar Berman, Elhanan Miller, Rebecca Shimoni Stoil and AP contributed to this report.