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Palestinian Official: No Negotiations Without Concessions From Israel First

All sides are maneuvering in anticipation of President Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel, where he will seek to improve the mood between the White House, Ramallah’s Muqata, and the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. Expect a lot of symbolic gestures without perhaps too much substance.

The Syrian and Iranian portfolios, two primary topics on which Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to hold intense discussions, will be exceptions to that rule.

In what will surely be a blow to the White House, a high-level PA official involved in preparations for the visit said the Palestinians have no intention of agreeing to peace talks with Israel without preconditions, and despite American calls to the contrary, the PA continues to demand a full freeze on Israeli construction in the West Bank and in Israel’s capital.

“Even a freeze that only includes areas outside the settlement blocs is unacceptable to us,” the official told The Tower. He then reiterated the PA’s known preconditions for talks with Israel: releasing prisoners jailed before the 1993 Oslo Accords and transferring parts of Area C in the West Bank (currently under full Israeli control) to the PA, among others.

So as to not be portrayed as thwarting peace, Ramallah does not use the word “conditions.” Palestinian officials instead deploy the friendlier-sounding “goodwill gestures.”

Nonetheless, officials who spoke to The Tower last week in Washington gave the impression that new Secretary of State John Kerry is not exactly ready to throw in the towel on the peace process. If he tries to bring the two sides together, he will have the support of the White House.

[Photo: Al Jazeera English / Flickr]