OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposals on security will lead to the “total failure” of the struggling peace talks with Israel, a senior Palestinian official warned Monday.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top official with the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Kerry’s ideas on the future configuration of security arrangements which were presented to the Palestinian leadership last week, had provoked a “real crisis.”
“These ideas will drive Kerry’s efforts to an impasse and to total failure because he is treating our issues with a high degree of indifference,” he told AFP.
His remarks were made just days after Kerry wrapped up his latest visit to the region in a bid forward to drive forward the negotiations, which have been treading water since they were launched in late July.
Kerry, who is expected to return to the region late this week, presented both sides with suggestions Thursday about how Israel might fend off future threats from the Palestinian state envisaged in West Bank land that it now occupies.
The proposals focus on security arrangements in the Jordan Valley which runs down the eastern flank of the West Bank, with commentators saying it would allow Israel to maintain a long-term military presence there.
Unsurprisingly, the U.S. suggestions reportedly won a positive reaction from the Israelis, but were sharply dismissed by the Palestinians as “very bad ideas, which we cannot accept.”
Israel has always insisted on maintaining a military presence in the Jordan Valley, but the notion has been rejected out of hand by the Palestinians who claim it would make a mockery of their sovereignty and merely perpetuate the occupation.
“[Kerry] only wants to win over the Israelis and [allow] settlement expansion at our expense,” Abed Rabbo said.
Abed Rabbo also told Voice of Palestine radio that Kerry had plunged the process into crisis by seeking to “appease Israel through agreeing to its expansion demands in the [Jordan] Valley under the pretext of security.”
U.S. acquiescence to Israel’s security demands was aimed at “silencing the Israelis over the deal with Iran and achieving a fake progress in the Palestinian-Israeli track at our expense,” he said.Abed Rabbo was referring to the Nov. 24 interim accord reached in Geneva between world powers and Iran, whereby it agreed to some curbs on its disputed nuclear program in exchange for the partial easing of international sanctions.
Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, denied there was any quid pro quo between the Iran and Palestine talks.
“These two issues concern both Israel’s security and our security and the interests of all the Middle East, that it be a more quiet and stable region. But we do not see any linkage in which we seek to give on one issue and receive on the other,” Shapiro told Israel’s Army Radio.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially condemned Geneva as an “historic mistake” that risked helping Iran’s limping economy, while leaving it with the means to make a nuclear bomb. Iran says its nuclear drive is peaceful.
The Geneva deal further strained the Israeli government’s ties with Washington, which is mindful of support for the Jewish state in the U.S. Congress.
Israel has not commented on the U.S. proposals but Cabinet minister Yaakov Peri said Sunday the government had not yet agreed to them.
Earlier Monday, an Israeli newspaper said Washington was considering delaying the planned release of another 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners in a bid to pressure Ramallah into agreeing to its security proposals. Several senior Palestinian officials reacted by stressing that the leadership would not accept any delay in the releases, which are due to take place at the end of the month.
“We completely reject any postponement in releasing the third batch of prisoners, who should be freed on Dec. 29,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP by phone from Washington.
Abed Rabbo too rejected any delay in implementing the third phase of releases – one of the conditions agreed on that brought the two sides back to the negotiating table for the first time in nearly three years.
“Our position is clear; Israel should implement the agreement, period,” he told Voice of Palestine. “We insist on full implementation of the prisoner agreement, including releasing the third batch at the end of December.”
On the settlement issue, Britain’s overseas trade body has issued a warning to firms investing in Israeli settlements, saying ties to the Israeli communities established in the West Bank could be bad for business.
Investing in settlements involves legal and economic risks “stemming from the fact that the Israeli settlements, according to international law, are built on occupied land and are not recognized as a legitimate part of Israel’s territory,” the U.K. Trade and Investment Department said in a report.
It also noted “the potential reputational implications” of getting involved in settlement activity.
The advice was published last week but only gained widespread attention when it was picked up Monday by Israeli newspaper Haaretz.