U.S. mediators are in Jerusalem “helping” Israeli and Palestinian Authority negotiators get back to the table and back to work. Again.
Chief negotiators Tzipi Livni for Israel and Saeb Erekat for the PA are scheduled to meet today with U.S. envoy Martin Indyk and others. Indyk, Livni and Erekat have already met three times this week. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is in the United States, and met last night in Washington D.C. with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
“We note that the contact in meetings between the negotiators is continuing and note that they are engaging in serious and intensive efforts to find a way out of the current impasse,” said U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki at a briefing Wednesday night. She was careful not to confirm that a meeting between the two sides would actually take place Thursday in Jerusalem. One cannot ever predict what will happen in Jerusalem and the Obama administration is now sadder and wiser.
Kerry kept his words upbeat while speaking to media ahead of his meeting with Liberman. “We are working hard to find a way forward. And both parties indicate they would like to find a way to go forward in the talks.”
Since the talks have yet to make any real progress at all, let alone move the “peace process” even one concrete inch on core issues, one questions exactly where “forward” each party means to go when they make that statement to the United States. It seems that Israel has made all the concessions – like freeing dozens of bloodthirsty terrorists in repeated “good will gestures” – and no visible reciprocal moves have been made by the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu finally ordered all government ministries except those related to defense, and all negotiators except Tzipi Livni, to cease civilian and economic contacts with the PA. The move came Wednesday in response to the PA’s brazen violation of its commitment not to sign membership for international agencies, treaties and organizations until the end of talks with Israel, slated for April 29.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas signed on to 15 global treaties, as head of the ‘State of Palestine,’ four days after Israel failed to release a group of 30 terrorist prisoners, among them 20 Israeli Arab citizens over which Abbas actually has no jurisdiction whatsoever.
That group was the last of four whose releases were supposed to be linked to progress in the talks and the active participation of Abbas at the negotiating table. But Abbas had not been present since last November, and no progress had been made.
Israeli ministers balked at releasing the final group of prisoners in the face of no progress, a month ahead of a deadline for talks that had accomplished nothing. Instead, Israel advanced a proposal to extend the talks until the end of 2014 and release 400 more prisoners in addition to the group of 30 scheduled to be freed – but the PA rebuffed the offer and instead walked away.
When talking to media in Washington, Liberman was blunt but polite about his view of what crashed the negotiations, choosing his words carefully.
“Unilateral steps,” he said, would only “undermine all our efforts.” A final status deal that would bring peace means a lot to Israel. The Jewish State is “ready to sacrifice a lot for this goal.”