No progress, plenty of pessimism from Israelis, Palestinians

U.S., others push for continued talks

Palestinian and Israeli officials Wednesday expressed pessimism over Jordanian-sponsored talks aimed at establishing a basis for a peace deal, signaling renewed entrenchment by both camps ahead of an international deadline.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that the Amman dialogue had not yielded any breakthroughs and that he would consult with Arab allies next week to discuss next steps.

The Washington Times first reported Friday that Palestinian officials plan to resume their effort to gain U.N. membership because they see no chance of reaching a peace deal with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The feeling here is that they don’t want to talk to us,” said an Israeli Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity to freely discuss the sensitive issue.

“They’ve gone to Amman in a desire to be seen to be cooperating but with the intent of reaching Jan. 26, when they can say the talks have failed and they can go back to their original plan, which is the internationalization of the conflict.”

Thursday marks the Palestinian interpretation of a three-month deadline set in October by the Middle East “Quartet” - the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia - for the parties to submit proposals on borders and security.

Israel argues that it has until late March to present its border proposals because the Amman talks did not begin until January.

The Palestinians froze their U.N. campaign to participate in the Jordanian talks, but officials said it would begin anew Thursday.

On Wednesday, Mr. Abbas met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and accused Israel of not wanting a resolution to the border issue. The Palestinian president has refused to engage in formal talks with Israel unless it freezes West Bank settlement construction and accepts a two-state solution based on its pre-1967 frontiers.

“If the borders are set, it’s possible to return to negotiations, but the Israelis do not want established borders,” Mr. Abbas said, according to the Palestinian News and Information Agency.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland responded to Mr. Abbas, saying that the U.S. wants the Jordanian talks to continue.

“We want to see all of these issues settled through negotiation, and we want them to stay at the table and work on the issues rather than be out there making statements in public,” she said.

Nabil Shaath, commissioner of foreign relations for Mr. Abbas’s Fatah party, said in an interview last week that the Palestinians had gone to Amman so as not to be accused of missing an opportunity.

“As a person, I don’t expect Mr. Netanyahu to produce anything,” he said. “After the 26th, we are free to do what we want.”

Mr. Shaath and other Palestinian officials also spoke of a potential “third intifada” against Israel, but all stressed that such an uprising would be nonviolent.

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About the Author

Ben Birnbaum

Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.

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