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Palestinians Issue New Negotiation Ultimatum Despite U.S. Objections

The Palestinian Authority (PA) will defy U.S. calls and pursue a unilateral diplomatic strategy unless Israel meets a series of preconditions by June 3rd, The Tower has been told. The Palestinian campaign would among other things see the PA seeking membership in a number of U.N. organs.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry began a renewed peace push last month. Israeli media outlets have previously reported that Washington made plain to PA officials that it does not accept a time-frame that would limit Kerry’s activity. The Secretary of State urged the Palestinians to postpone bids for enhanced status at U.N. and international bodies – including in the International Criminal Court – by eight weeks.

The Palestinians initially agreed but have now decided to set a new deadline.

The new ultimatum was presented to Kerry during his last meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, in Istanbul on April 21. Palestinian negotiators are demanding that the U.S. force Israel to accept the Jewish state’s 1949 armistice lines as the basis for negotiations, and that a map is produced verifying that understanding.

Palestinian officials believe that Kerry is deeply committed to pushing a new peace initiative, but that President Barack Obama is focused elsewhere. The new Palestinian ultimatum is aimed in part at pressuring the Americans to pressure Israel.

The Palestinians understand that unilateral initiatives at the U.N. will likely trigger Israeli responses, including possibly economic sanctions. Similar moves have generated harsh reactions from U.S. lawmakers and from the White House. U.S. analysts have outlined that they “threaten[] United States and Israeli interests” and “undermine[] all internationally accepted frameworks for peace.”

The new deadline comes despite significant efforts by the State Department to reach out to the Palestinian Authority. The Secretary of State has met with Abbas several times in recent weeks, including in Amman, Riyadh, Ramallah, and Istanbul.

But efforts by Kerry to preserve U.S.-backed institution building, specifically by preventing Abbas from accepting the resignation of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, were last month derided by Palestinian officials as “naive.”

Israeli officials have rejected the Palestinian conditions, as well as gestures which would involve releasing Palestinian prisoners. Yesterday a recently-freed Palestinian prisoner murdered an Israeli father of five in a West Bank terror attack.

The choice of June 3rd appears to be deliberate and symbolic. It is the day before the outbreak of the 1967 Six Day War that saw Israel respond to Egyptian and Jordanian acts of war and gain control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and other territories previously held by Arab states.

Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.

[Photo: World Economic Forum / Flickr]