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Israeli Offer for Peace Talks Stymied By Palestinian Preconditions

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been under pressure to return to negotiations with Israel, after Israeli leaders again reiterated their willingness to return to peace talks without preconditions. Yesterday Abbas told EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton that he too is committed to the peace process:

During a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Ramallah, Abbas talked of the Palestinians’ “commitment to the success of Kerry’s efforts to save the peace process in order to restart serious talks leading to the end of the occupation and the establishment of a an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital”.

A day before Abbas had insisted that Israel release security prisoners before he would agree to return to talks:

During a meeting in Ramallah with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully, Abbas reiterated his demand that Israel halt settlement construction and release Palestinian prisoners to pave the way for the resumption of the peace talks. An Israeli official responded that “if the Palestinians keep piling on pre-conditions, they are going to miss a historic opportunity. It is time to move forward, Israel is ready.”

The two positions are difficult to reconcile. Freezing construction beyond Israel’s 1948 borders is a relatively new condition. Historically the Palestinians did not use it as a pretext for boycotting negotiations. Moreover When Netanyahu did freeze construction for 10 months as a confidence-building measure, Abbas still refused to negotiate until the final few weeks of the freeze. When the freeze expired Abbas stopped negotiating.

The conditions under which Israel is expected to release prisoners, meanwhile, were explicitly addressed in the Oslo Accords. The treaty spoke of “detainees and/or prisoners charged with or imprisoned for security offenses not involving fatality or serious injury.” Several of the prisoners whose release Abbas is demanding are praised by Palestinian media outlets for being violence terrorists:

Faraj Saleh Abdallah Al-Rimahi, who is serving a life sentence for beating an 84 year-old Israeli to death with a hoe in 1992, was coined a “giant hero” by the PA TV host. … The PA TV host referred to Ibrahim Faiz Abu Ali, who is serving a life sentence for murdering a 24 year-old Israeli taxi driver in 1992, as “the hero prisoner.”

Praising Palestinians for murdering Israelis, by the by, constitutes incitement and is an explicit violation of the Oslo Accords.

[Photo: Cabinet Office / Flickr]