Israelis, Palestinians to meet again in attempt to salvage peace talks
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were to meet again on Monday in a fresh effort to salvage the teetering US-brokered peace talks, US and Palestinian officials said.
The meeting came as US Secretary of State John Kerry scrambled to rescue negotiations he kick-started in July, and a week after a fresh impasse saw both sides renege on commitments they made nine months ago.
But the top US diplomat warned there are “limits” to the time and energy Washington could inject into a process which appears to have made no progress amid bitter recriminations and moves Washington has described as “unhelpful”.
“Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met last night to discuss ways to overcome the crisis in the talks,” a US official said on Monday.
“The meeting was serious and constructive, and both sides requested that the United States convene another meeting today to continue the effort.”
A Palestinian official confirmed to AFP that a meeting was scheduled, but neither side gave a time or location.
Accompanied by US envoy Martin Indyk, the two sides met on Sunday evening, but Palestinian sources told AFP that the session ended without any breakthrough and an Israeli official was quoted by local media as saying the process was on the edge of collapse.
Israel’s parliament was also meeting in special session on Monday during its spring recess, for a debate on the peace negotiations, called by opposition MPs critical of the government’s handling of the talks.
“This is a government of failure, it is a government that does not give hope but only depression,” Labour party leader Isaac Herzog told the almost empty house.
– ‘No communication between them’ –
But he allocated blame both to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, referring to him by the name by which he is familiarly known among Palestinians.
“There is not even minimal dialogue between Abu Mazen and Netanyahu. There is no communication between them,” he said.
“They have been blaming one another since the day the negotiations started and they don’t meet and don’t talk.”
Netanyahu on Sunday threatened to retaliate if the Palestinians proceed with applications they lodged with the UN last week to sign up to 15 international treaties.
“Any unilateral moves they take will be answered by unilateral moves at our end,” the premier said.
But Palestinian political analyst Samir Awad, of Birzeit University in the West Bank, said that it was an empty threat.
“In my opinion Israel can do nothing,” he told AFP. “Israel has no convincing argument.”
Kerry warned Friday there were “limits” to the time and energy Washington could devote to the talks, as his appeals to both sides to step back from the brink were ignored.
Abbas rejected Kerry’s plea to withdraw the treaty applications, and Netanyahu rejected US appeals to refrain from tit-for-tat moves, instead asking for a range of retaliatory options.
However, commentator Tal Harris wrote in Monday’s Jerusalem Post that the peace process was still alive.
“Although it might smell funny, it isn?t dead yet,” said Harris, of the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue movement One Voice.
“Kerry must reveal some of the progress that was made so far, and Netanyahu and Abbas need to engage in the process more directly,” he said.
“The diplomatic process sometimes feels irrelevant to the lives of ordinary citizens on the ground.”