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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘negotiations’

Indyk Returns to Raise the Dead (Israel-PA Talks)

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East Martin Indyk is on his way back to the region today (Thursday) to officially revive the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

State Department spokesperson Marty Harf told reporters at a briefing that both sides have told Secretary of State John Kerry they want to continue negotiations beyond the current April 29 deadline.

Neither side was willing to meet after the terrorist attack in Judea on Monday that killed senior police officer Baruch Mizrahi, a father of five, and wounded his wife and 9-year-old son. The attacker or attackers were standing on the side of the road on Highway 35 near Hevron, shooting at vehicles with Israeli license plates, a witness said. One arrest has allegedly been made but no details were released. Mizrahi was on his way with his family to a seder in Kiryat Arba to celebrate the Passover holiday when he was murdered.

Talks that were scheduled for Wednesday night were cancelled. Both sides were unwilling to negotiate in the face of another Arab terror attack on Jews using an AK-47 – a weapon supplied to PA police by the U.S. military, among others – ostensibly to strengthen its forces so they could ‘fight terror.’

On Thursday, those talks are set to resume with Indyk, Israel’s Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni and negotiator Yitzhak Molcho, and the PA’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.

PA spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudaineh told a media briefing in Ramallah that an agreement is already in place to extend the talks.

“The Palestinian commitment is clear to the Israelis and the Americans, and this commitment is that the talks will continue until April 29, and that Israel should release the fourth group of prisoners,” Rudaineh told reporters. “This is the basic Palestinian demand. This is not a Palestinian condition, but it is a Palestinian demand, which was agreed upon with the U.S. secretary of state according to which 104 pre-Oslo prisoners would be released, and in return we would not go to the United Nations organizations for nine months… Now the talks with the Israelis and the Americans are continuing to the end of this month to discuss the basis that could lead to an extension of the negotiations,” he said.

Various proposals are being advanced by Israel in order to wrestle with the issue of the Israeli Arab prisoners among the fourth and final group that was held back due to lack of progress in the talks.

The Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party has threatened to leave the government if those prisoners – Israeli citizens who are all Arab terrorists – are freed.

One option would be to revoke their citizenship and deport them. Another would be to simply send the entire group to Gaza or abroad. In either case, resistance from the PA is expected – as usual.

Israel, PLO ‘Talk’ Over Sanctions, Not Status

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Israeli and Palestinian Authority negotiators are warning each other over what will happen if each walks away from the negotiating table — and neither is talking about the subject for which they were brought to the table.

Israel has warned the PA that if the entity does not cease its violations of an agreement to refrain from joining international treaties and organizations, the Jewish State will respond with more unilateral actions of its own.

And the Palestinian Authority negotiators are responding that they just don’t care — they will simply sign more international treaties and conventions, including one giving the entity membership at the International Criminal Court in The Hague — and establish recognition for their entity as a new country, albeit one without recognized, negotiated borders, that way.

Both are adroitly avoiding the real reason they are sitting there: how to wrestle with the knotty problem of finding a solution to an unsolvable crisis — a looming deadline for talks on an issue that cannot be solved to anyone’s satisfaction by Western standards. The Palestinian Authority is actually TWO entities, not one: Gaza, run by Hamas, and Ramallah-controlled areas of Judea & Samaria. Worse, all of these populations have now been effectively brainwashed into thorough hatred of Jews and Israel — fed on a daily diet of media incitement sponsored by the PA government and the surrounding Arab nations, in total violation of the internationally-recognized Oslo Accords.

There is no way to dial that back, even if they wanted to — and perhaps some of the PA leaders do — but most of them would not even if they could. The question now is how to keep this fiasco from blowing up in everyone’s faces while keeping American mediators — who tend to complicate the picture and only make things worse — at bay.

But at least Israelis and PA negotiators are meeting — until this point, the Americans have been at the table for every single encounter since November, and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, whose presence was required, has not been.

The PA negotiators allegedly refused to come to the table without them; but one has only to read the autobiographies of the founders of Israel to see what was going on in negotiations during prior wars to wonder what the real story is behind this account as well. What is certain is that the media is only hearing part of the tale — and the public even less.

Regardless, the PA move is intended to create a de facto recognition of the entity as an independent sovereign nation by evading the Oslo Accords. The 1993 agreement signed by the late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin require the PA to negotiate a final status agreement with Israel. It includes a requirement for the PA to abandon terror and negotiate final borders, among other issues.

The Israeli sanctions have already begun. Jerusalem has begun to deduct sums from taxes it collects each month – some $110 million — on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The money will be used to pay down the massive debt the PA owes to Israel for the electricity it receives, use of Israeli hospitals and provision of specialized medical care. The PA owes Israel nearly half a billion shekels. The PA is screaming over the reduction of the funds because the taxes Israel collects and transfers to its coffers each month represent nearly two-thirds of its income.

Nevertheless, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Nabil Shaath brushed aside the Israeli threat when speaking with reporters on Sunday after a meeting with a German delegation in the Samaria-based PA capital of Ramallah. The move, he said, “will not stop us from joining international treaties and conventions,” according to the PA news agency WAFA.

Israel-PA Negotiators Back to Work in Jerusalem

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

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.”

Netanyahu Orders Contact Cut with Palestinian Authority

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has ordered all but one Israeli negotiator to cut contact with their Palestinian Authority counterparts.

Netanyahu ordered discussions halted between Israeli and PA representatives on all issues with the exception of security, according to news agencies.

In addition, all government ministries — except the Defense Ministry — are to cease any civilian and economic cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.

Only Israel’s chief negotiator  and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, head of the Tnua party, was exempted from the ban. The moratorium comes in response to what a government official called the “Palestinians’ grave violation of their commitments in the framework of the peace talks.”

The comment refers to the PA promise made from the outset of the talks to refrain from unilateral attempts to gain membership in international and United Nations agencies, treaties and organizations until after the talks were to end on April 29. Last Monday, April 1, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas broke his word to Israel and the United States, signing and submitting applications to 15 international conventions following a crisis in the talks.

In response, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned earlier this week, “Unilateral steps [on the part of the PA] will be met with unilateral steps on our part.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to smooth over new tensions with America’s strongest ally in the region after having appeared to throw Israel under the bus when he met with his own firing squad at a Congressional hearing earlier this week.

Kerry pointed the finger at Israel when asked why the talks failed, claiming “the two sides have taken steps that are not helpful,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in an attempt at “clarification” a day later. “At no stage did he play the blame game,” she claimed. “Kerry even noted especially that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took courageous steps throughout the process.”

But Kerry told the Senate during the hearing that the main reason the talks failed had to do with Israel refusing to free a fourth tranche of PA terrorist prisoners on schedule — a group that included 20 Israeli Arab citizens — preceding a deadline for completion of talks that had to date accomplished nothing other than release from Israeli prisons for 78 other PA terrorists, and no significant concessions from the Palestinian Authority. Kerry also slammed continued construction in established Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. In addition, he said, “Around noon, when they were to reach an agreement, 700 housing units in Jerusalem were announced and ‘boom.’”

As if the announcement of adding new housing in Jerusalem to relieve a population crisis in the capital, and construction in existing towns and cities was the true point of contention upon which agreed-upon negotiations between “professional” diplomats rose and fell.

The lack of clarity about the real reason for the crash of the talks is not being discussed outside of the closed doors in the capitals of the world, although every world leader understands the truth.

PA leaders do not want this millstone, the burden of forever having the responsibility for running this “independent state” — around their necks. They don’t know how, and they don’t have enough skilled people, properly trained to do it yet. And those they do have do not stay due to the corruption and intrigues that go on that pose a constant risk to their lives. It is a hangman’s noose that will eventually kill each and every one of them because of the risk of failure. So each is looking for different ways to escape it — and to somehow find a way blame Israel in the process.

If we are really lucky, perhaps America will stay out of this process long enough to allow Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat to walk everyone back from the brink, and just long enough to prevent any forced agreement or unilateral action being imposed on Israel in the near future.

 

 

Will Kerry Be On Hot Seat at Obama Meeting?

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Oy. He’s logged thousands of hours flying back and forth, meeting with leaders from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and surrounding Arab nations. Sleepless nights, endless days, Middle Eastern food and where has it all led?

Back to Square One by anyone’s estimation – and very likely in the eyes of President Barack Obama at the White House.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reports today (Tuesday) to the president so both can decide what to do next about the persnickety tangle that just won’t untangle in the Holy Land.

The problem is, after the better part of a year, John Kerry may have almost nothing to show for all of his efforts and a massive bill to boot. It’s a credibility problem for him – did he read the situation wrong? Or was it simply a matter of the Western mind not understanding the typical Middle Eastern Arab mentality again? And again. And again. Ad nauseum.

Because we who live here have already seen this before in our neighborhood. There have been so many train wrecks down this gorge, we’ve lost count of the number of peace plans we’ve complied with here in the Land of Israel. Most were American.

And Mr. Kerry is another one lacking the basic understanding of Middle Eastern mentality, the Arab mind and how it works, and the way it goes in this region. Briefings on “Arab culture” don’t cut it when it comes to shuttle diplomacy here. It is just not enough when it gets to the nitty gritty.

The Europeans already know better. They make dry observations, back the Arabs (who they know they can rely on to pull out rather than comply) and then fade out before the sun sets in the West. Of course, ‘intel’ ties always continue with Israel; it would be silly to ignore the needs of national security, right?

But the U.S. has yet to learn that Arab leadership is not reliable. The Palestinian Authority talks one way in English and the other way in Arabic and its word is never its word. Peace is not a concept this entity can understand. The definition of ‘honor’ in this culture is not the same as that of the West – it is defined differently in the Middle East.

Think ASIA when you think of PA government “honor.” That is the closest analogy one can summon. It does not involve life, but death – truly. And age doesn’t count. Babies do qualify. Everyone is expendable.

John Kerry is a well-meaning guy. He really thought he could pull this off. And he did have a peace partner. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu braved his entire coalition to make this last attempt – and almost lost his government over it. In fact, he still might. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Labor leader Isaac Herzog are both taking a shot at widening the fractures so they can climb all over it when new elections come around – and they both hope it’s sooner rather than later.

The last thing Israel needed was to free dozens more terrorists, let alone open the roadblocks to create a new free entrance on to Highway 60 from the Arab side of Hevron. But that’s what Israel did at America’s insistence for the U.S. attempt at new talks with the PA, knowing it was likely to come to naught.

It would be a pity if President Obama were now to rake John Kerry over the coals for following his orders and extending his own personal good faith in the process.

Mr. Kerry is not a young man either, and the constant flights could not have been easy. The stress of struggling to deal with Arab leaders fighting your every effort to reach a compromise could not have been fun. And having to second-guess everyone’s thoughts, words, actions and decisions following each session – although that is the job for which he was trained – must have been the stuff of nightmares.

Israel Sets Its Own Precondition for Talks With PA

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Israel has for the first time set its own precondition for any return to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beyteynu party, announced the Jewish State will not negotiate again with the PA unless it withdraws all 15 of its applications to international treaties, conventions and memberships in United Nations (UN) agencies and organizations.

“We will not agree to unilateral actions by the Palestinians without exacting a price from them for that behavior,” Liberman stated in an interview Tuesday morning on Voice of Israel government radio.

While Israel favors negotiations, he said, he does not intend for Israel to be “a sucker.” The PA has incessantly set preconditions as a means of dragging security and other concessions out of Israel prior to entering any form of negotiations. As usual, the current round of talks saw Israel forced by the United States – whose arm was twisted by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas – to free dozens of terrorist prisoners in a new round of “good will gestures.”

Four groups of prisoners were to be freed in the deal intended to bring Abbas to the negotiating table and to keep him there, totaling 104 terrorists, including 20 Israeli Arab citizens who were not even technically under PA jurisdiction. To date 78 terrorists have already been freed.

However, this time Israel set a condition of its own: the prisoner release was to be linked to the progress made in the talks, and to the participation of Abbas at the table. But Abbas rarely showed, and had not been seen since November 2013. The talks had accomplished little of significance from the start. Nor did Abbas keep his word, following a pattern he showed during the last such round of negotiations in 2009-2010.

Meanwhile, the final prisoner group would have included the Israeli Arab terrorists, causing a fierce debate among politicians and citizens. Releasing them before the end of the talks, scheduled for April 29,  would have left no reason for PA negotiators to come back the next day.

Israeli ministers and citizens balked and the tranche was blocked. Instead, Israel suggested extending the talks till the end of 2014 and offered to free the final group, as well as an additional 400 prisoners if the PA agreed. In response, an infuriated PA decided to go with a flurry of international applications instead, and also threatened to go to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Liberman directly blamed Abbas for sabotaging the talks, saying the PA chairman submitted the applications just as both sides were about to complete a deal for a prisoner release. The foreign minister added there is no way that Israel is willing to narrow down talks to the sole issue of borders, at the behest of the PA. The Jewish State is willing to negotiate all outstanding issues, but demands from the PA to exclude all core issues but one are not acceptable.

Coalition Crisis Looming Over Israel-PA Talks?

Monday, April 7th, 2014

There are no last-minute breakthroughs to report by either side in the Israel-Palestinian Authority negotiations, and PA representatives report no progress while Israeli ministers are squabbling.

PA sources told reporters Sunday night, “The crisis continues. During the entire meeting the Israelis threatened the Palestinians and no solution to the crisis was found.”

But as the “framework agreement” talks continue to fall apart, Israel’s government coalition is now facing a crisis of its own.

In a Knesset plenum session on Monday, Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) called on the Hatnua party led by chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni and the Yesh Atid party headed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid to leave the government. “The failure echoes in all areas,” Herzog charged. “This is a government of failure that does not provide peace, only depression.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beyteynu party, seems to be heaping his own fuel to the fire. Liberman opened the door to new elections yesterday (Sunday April 6) with incendiary comments at The Jerusalem Post’s Annual Conference in New York, saying he would rather face new elections than extend the talks with the PA in another “grand deal.”

Liberman opposes the proposal advanced by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that would have extended the current talks until the end of 2014. The proposal would have freed the last tranche of 30 terrorists – including 20 Israeli Arab citizens – as well as an additional 400 more PA prisoners chosen by Israel as well.

The proposal and the unilateral membership applications by the PA to 15 international United Nations agencies and organizations, have torn apart Netanyahu’s coalition.

Despite intense efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Special Envoy to the Middle East Martin Indyk, absolutely no progress has been made in months. Both men appear to realize that there is not much more to be done, and now appear to be backing away from the process at this point.

Did Kerry Cancel His Meeting with Abbas Because the PA Broke Its Word?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

For a second time this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry abruptly cancelled a scheduled meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Reporters were told late Tuesday evening that Kerry’s meeting today (Wednesday) with Abbas was cancelled, with few details added. “We are no longer traveling tomorrow,” a senior State Department official said simply.

Abbas breached the conditions of his agreement with Israel – and the United States – by signing a PA application for membership in 15 United Nations agencies and organizations. “The demands (for membership) will be sent immediately,” Abbas announced at a briefing. “This is not a move against America or any other party. It is our right and we agreed to suspend it for nine months.”

The deadline for completion of the framework agreement talks was set for April 29. But Abbas has not actively participated in direct talks for months, according to reports quoting government minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua). Nor has the PA made any “good will gestures” towards Israel comparable to those forced upon the Jewish States by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, the PA’s unilateral move is one that turns the clock back more than a year, dialing back efforts by John Kerry to keep the entity from attempting to unilaterally gain recognition in the U.N. as an independent sovereign nation. It also is a return to its attempt to evade the agreement it signed in the internationally-recognized Oslo Accords in 1993.

Two days earlier the PA chairman was have met with Kerry in Ramallah following talks between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Secretary of State. But the meeting in Jerusalem ran longer than expected and John Kerry had to race for his flight to make a two-day meeting in Brussels.

The Israeli-PA negotiations over a “framework agreement” have been limping along for months now, with Israel making what appears to be all of the concessions. As a ‘good will gesture’ to bring Abbas to the table and keep him there, Israel agreed to free 104 PA terrorist prisoners in four separate tranches linked to the PA leader’s active participation in the talks. Three of the four have already been made, with some 78 terrorists freed.

The fourth and final group of terrorists scheduled to be released last week, however, included 20 Israeli Arab citizens – and at that point both government ministers and the entire Israeli population balked.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/did-kerry-cancel-his-meeting-with-abbas-because-the-pa-broke-its-word/2014/04/02/

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