Abbas aide on Kerry's Mideast peace plan: "Useless"

Published February 11th, 2014 - 04:07 GMT
Nabil Rdeinah is the spokesman of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (File Archive)
Nabil Rdeinah is the spokesman of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (File Archive)

A Palestinian official said on Tuesday a framework agreement being crafted by US Secretary of State John Kerry to sustain troubled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks may be doomed to fail.

Nabil Abu Rdeineh, spokesman to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, said the deal due to be submitted to the two sides in the coming weeks would be "useless" if it allowed them to nominally accept its principles but to express reservations.

"Use of the word 'reservations' bogs down the peace process and the use of this concept in the past has got the process stuck," Abu Rdeineh told Reuters.

In an interview with The Washington Post last week, Kerry said that enabling Israeli and Palestinian leaders to "have some objection" to drafted parameters "is the only way for them to politically be able to keep the negotiations moving".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads a governing coalition that includes an extremist right-wing party, which could bolt over land-for-peace terms of any statehood deal with Palestinians.

Abbas also faces political pressure not to bend on issues at the core of the decades-old conflict, such as the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and the future of Jerusalem.

Veterans of Abbas's own Fatah party have been skeptical of his decision to restart talks with Israel, which resumed in July after a three-year break. Top officials have threatened a return to protests and even armed protests should they fail.

The US-backed negotiations are scheduled to expire at the end of April. Washington has said the framework agreement would be a basis to prolong the talks, but Palestinian officials have yet to accept any extension.

The Palestinian Authority have been seeking a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel captured those areas during a brutal preemptive war in 1967, and in 2005 pulled its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip - an over-populated land now hedged in by an illegal Israeli-Egyptian blockade that cuts off land, air, and sea routes.

Abu Rdeineh cautioned against the Kerry document crossing any Palestinian "red lines".

He said the framework agreement must clearly recognize the 1967 lines as the outline demarcating the two states, designate East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and call Israel's colonial settlements on occupied land illegal, hardening Washington's current description of them as "illegitimate".

Since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, Israeli land expropriation and construction of colonial outposts increased, seeing the Jewish settler population in the West Bank more than triple. Over half a million heavily armed Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which are considered illegal under international law.

The Israeli occupation imposes harsh restrictions on Palestinians including the annexation of their properties and restricted movements via military checkpoints and segregated roads.

Failure to salvage the talks, which have yet to show signs of progress, may lead to a showdown between Israel and the Palestinians in international bodies. Israeli officials say boycotts and political isolation of their state may soon follow.

Setting conditions for a final peace deal, Netanyahu has ruled out a return to what he has termed "indefensible" pre-1967 war lines. He has also demanded a long-term Israeli security presence on the future eastern border of a Palestinian state and has called on Abbas to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state”.

The Israeli leader is due to meet US President Barack Obama next month in Washington.

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