Palestinian and Israeli leaders, who were unusually mum this past weekend shortly after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement to resume peace negotiations, have since responded, and their reactions range from guarded to negative to outright contradictions.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was already thinking beyond the failure of the as-yet unstarted talks. He was quoted in an interview with the Jordanian daily. Al Ra’i, published Monday, as saying that if there is no progress in peace talks, “all options are open.”
“If there is no agreement to push peace forward, all options are open,” Abbas said without going into specifics, according to a Times of Israel translation.
The comments by Abbas were his first since Kerry’s announcement last week that peace talks would resume after being on hiatus for nearly three years.
Meanwhile, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, said that the Palestinians are maintaining their preconditions to starting peace talks with Israel.
Across the Green Line, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was guarded about the announcement.
Speaking Sunday at his weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said if peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians did reach fruition, the results would be brought to a national referendum vote.
“I believe that this is crucial; I don’t believe that decisions such as these can be taken — if a deal is reached — with one coalition or another, but rather this thing needs to be brought to the nation to decide,” Netanyahu said, according to Israel Hayom.
The prime minister did make a gesture of goodwill to the P.A., agreeing to release 85 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
Kerry, who has visited Israel and the Palestinian territories six times in four months, announced Friday that an agreement that “establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis” had been reached.
A specific date for the first meeting between the Israelis and Palestinians in Washington, D.C., has not yet been set, though the envoys for the negotiations would likely be Saeb Erekat for the Palestinians, and Tzipi Livni and Isaac Molho for the Israelis.
News reports have indicated that Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, would be named U.S. envoy to the region.
In addition to Abbas’ statement, multiple Palestinian representatives have been denying that the framework for final-status negotiations had been agreed upon.
Palestinian Authority officials have repeatedly accentuated since Kerry’s announcement that they are maintaining their demands in order for talks to resume — including a return to the pre-1967 lines (which were marked as armistice lines between Israel and Jordan after Jordan occupied the West Bank in 1948) as the basis of negotiations, and a complete freeze of construction beyond those lines — and that those demands had not yet been accepted.
Israel has rejected those preconditions.
Fatah Central Command member Abbas Zaki stated in Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood newspaper As-Sabeel, “The visit [by Kerry to Jordan] is nothing more than consultations; it has nothing to do with launching negotiations.”
But State Department again confirmed the talks during a Monday press briefing in Washington.
State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki rejected claims that the Palestinians were not on board with the proposed talks, according to the Times of Israel. She said there was “an agreement between parties to resume final status negotiations.”
She added, “There are only a limited number of parties who know the true details of what was agreed,” emphasizing that the American position remains the same as outlined by President Barack Obama in his 2011 Middle East policy speech.
For his part, Obama — Kerry’s boss — has been silent on the issue since Kerry’s announcement Friday, Bloomberg News reported.
The French news agency AFP reported an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying the talks would fail because Israel would never agree to withdraw from “occupied Arab lands.”