US-led Israeli-Palestinian talks get off to confused start. Palestinians shun security issues
US-Israeli-Palestinian negotiations resume Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 14, in deep confusion, senior Israeli officials report to debkafile. They say that the US delegation chairing the negotiations “appears to be at sea on which issue to lead off.” There is anger in Jerusalem over the leak from US Secretary of State John Kerry’s circle of his threat that Israel would face a campaign against its legitimacy unless it gives way to pressures on West Bank settlements.
“The Secretary would be better advised to focus on the hardening of the Palestinian position,” said Israeli sources. They also pointed out that although Kerry had insisted on the talks being held in confidence, his own people were pouring out confidential data to the media. “This can only be explained,” said the Israeli sources, “by the talks having run into crisis before they begin.”
By declaring that the future Palestinian state must be cleansed of every last Jew, civilian or military, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas takes an even more extreme line than Yasser Arafat did in 2000. In the trilateral talks he held with then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, under the auspices of President Bill Clinton, the Palestinian leader accepted the right of the Israeli Defense Forces to rapidly deploy on the West Bank and Jordan Rift Valley in the event of a security crisis threatening Israel from the east.
Abbas has also backed away from the Palestinians’ original consent for Israeli security forces to be posted at the border crossings of the future Palestinian state.
According to debkafile’s sources, the US Secretary of State recently proposed that security arrangements along the Jordan River and the West Bank be determined by the US and Israel without Palestinian involvement.
This position encouraged Abbas to take a tough line, say the sources, and for Israel it is a non-starter. “If Kerry does not recognize that a consensus on security must be embedded in the crux of any accord and accepted by all three parties, the negotiations must be considered to have run into insurmountable difficulties,” said the Israel source, who preferred to stay anonymous in view of the sensitivity of the issues.
Washington sources report that the Secretary failed to win the support of American Jewish leaders when he met them at the White House on Aug. 8 along with National Security Adviser Susan Rice. They found his arguments vague, inconsistent and loaded with danger for Israel.
This last week, sources in Washington and Israel report that US Special Envoy Martin Indyk is working overtime to rescue the Israel-Palestinian peace track initiated by John Kerry from foundering before it gets properly underway.
Sunday, Aug. 11, Indyk met Israel’s Justice Minister and senior negotiator Tzipi Livni and her aides at a restaurant in Herzlia in search of a strategy for saving the process from collapse after the first substantial round takes place Wednesday.
Indyk was concerned that the Palestinian side led by Saab Erekat would kick of the session with a demand to pick up the negotiations from the point reached by former prime minister Ehud Olmert in 2008, even though the Palestinians rejected his proposals at the time. Abbas is now trying to maneuver Israel into undersigning the Olmert concessions and topping them up with more.
Israel says that in view of 50 years of failed peace talks stalled by the Palestinians, this new round must start afresh with all the issues on the table.
Kerry appears to have grasped that his initiative on security arrangements and general approach were misplaced, only encouraging the Palestinians to revert to the dangerous pipe dream that they can force all parties to turn the clock back at their convenience.