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Jordan-backed talks may help Palestinian leader
After failed U.N. gambit, Abbas’ options risky
Question of the Day
JERUSALEM — After this week’s attempt to restart Mideast peace talks, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas now is caught between undesirable choices.
Despite Mr. Abbas‘ deep misgivings, a Jordanian offer to salvage the peace process may be his best hope.
Mr. Abbas has been searching for alternatives since the last round of peace talks broke down in September 2010. Refusing to negotiate while Israel expanded its Jewish settlements, he appealed to the United Nations to recognize an independent Palestine and moved to reconcile with rival Palestinian faction Hamas.
Neither move paid off, and both are now in limbo.
The quiet talks hosted by Jordan between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on Tuesday — the first face-to-face talks between them in 15 months — could provide a way for him to avoid having to choose a particular path.
Mr. Abbas would pay a heavy price among Palestinians if he returns to formal peace negotiations without an Israeli settlement freeze, a step that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu staunchly refuses.
Reconciliation is essential for Mr. Abbas‘ dream of establishing a Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Mr. Abbas‘ Fatah party and Hamas have agreed tentatively on holding new elections in the Palestinian areas this spring, with the idea of forming a new government afterward.
But pushing forward with these reconciliation attempts could lead to international isolation for the Palestinians and almost certainly torpedo any hope for restarting peace negotiations.
In addition, the West would likely cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid needed to keep Mr. Abbas‘ West Bank government afloat.
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