The Obama administration is reportedly increasingly concerned that the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are on the brink of collapse, and is working to find a solution that would allow the talks to continue beyond the April deadline marking the end of the agreed-upon nine month negotiating period, according to a Times Of Israel report.
Israeli TV reported that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas rejected the framework document for continued peace talks with Israel proposed by the Obama administration, and issued “three no’s” on core issues, leaving the negotiations with nowhere to go.
Specifically, the report said, Abbas rejected Israel’s demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state; he also refused to abandon the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” to Israel for millions of descendants Palestinian refugees from 1948, a demand that no conceivable Israeli government would accept; and he refused to commit to an “end of conflict,” under which a peace deal would represent the end of any further Palestinian demands of Israel.
Palestinian agreement with Israel on those core issues is the minimum that Israel requires to enter any pact to solve once and for all the simmering dispute. The Obama administration had supported Israel’s positions on these issues, but starting walking back that support in recent weeks, especially regarding Israel’s insistence on recognition as a Jewish state.
The US is trying to ensure that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will agree to continue the talks anyway, and move forward with the upcoming release of a fourth batch of Palestinian terror prisoners held in Israeli jails. The four rounds of prisoner releases were Israeli concessions to ensure Palestinian participation in the talks. If Abbas has already scuttled any possibility of a framework agreement, Israel sees no need for another painful round of releasing terror prisoners with Israeli blood on their hands.
The negotiations are in “real danger” over the prisoner release issue and the entire process could fail, according to Israeli officials who spoke to Israel Radio.
Abbas returned on Thursday from his White House talks with President Obama, and was met at his Ramallah compound by throngs of cheering supporters. He issued a cryptic statement understood to mean that he had rejected the Obama framework proposals: “We carried the deposit, and we are guarding the deposit,” Abbas told those supporters. “You know all the conditions and circumstances, and I say to you that capitulating is not a possibility.” Abbas did not specify precisely what he meant by the “deposit.”