JUST BEFORE his talks with President Abbas on Monday, President Obama said: ‘I think everybody understands the outlines of what a peace deal would look like, involving a territorial compromise on both sides based on ’67 lines with mutually agreed-upon swaps, that would ensure that Israel was secure but would also ensure that the Palestinians have a sovereign state in which they can achieve the aspirations that they’ve held for so long.’
He added: ‘It’s very hard; it’s very challenging. We’re going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we’re able to move it forward. And my hope is that we can continue to see progress in the coming days and weeks.’
Abbas responded: ‘I would also like to affirm what you have said, that we are working for a solution that is based on international legitimacy and also the borders – the 1967 borders – so that the Palestinians can have their own independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital and so that we can find a fair and lasting solution to the refugee problem.
‘We don’t have any time to waste. Time is not on our side, especially given the very difficult situation that the Middle East is experiencing and the entire region is facing. We hope that we would be able to seize this opportunity to achieve a lasting peace.
‘Since 1988 and into 1993, we have been extending our hands to our Israeli neighbours so that we can reach a fair and lasting peace to this problem. Since 1988, we have recognised international legitimacy resolutions and this was a very courageous step on the part of the Palestinian leadership. And in 1993, we recognised the state of Israel.
‘Mr President, we have an agreement with Israel, that was brokered by Mr Kerry concerning the release of the fourth batch of prisoners and we are hopeful that the fourth batch will be released by the 29th of March because this will give a very solid impression about the seriousness of these efforts to achieve peace.’
Monday’s talks have failed since all the risks and tough decisions were to be taken by the Palestinians.
The US wanted the Palestinians to approve a ‘framework’ accord that would extend the negotiations beyond next month’s April 29 deadline till July and a final deal that would include Israeli troops on the borders of the Palestinian state, the recognition of Israel as a ‘Jewish state’, the ending of any right to return and a land swap that would see Palestine get a chunk of the Sinai desert in return for handing over the Jordan Valley to Israel.
Before Monday’s talks, the Israeli government had insisted that the talks would have to be extended beyond April 29, and that Israeli troops must be on Palestine’s borders and that Palestine must recognise the ‘Jewish State’.
Further, Israeli ministers had said that a failure to concede would mean no fourth release of Palestinian prisoners by March 29th.
On Monday, Abbas is reported to have demanded that as a condition for extending the talks beyond April 29, the fourth release of Palestinian prisoners must take place on March 29th, and include Marwan al Barghouthi and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Ahmed Saadat, and that the Israeli government must halt all settlement building.
This offer was refused.
Even before Abbas’s visit to Washington, an official at the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said its negotiating team felt it did not ‘have a partner on the Israeli side’.
As usual, all the tough decisions were for the Palestinians to make, while the other side, the US representing Israel, would make no concessions at all.
Abbas arrived at the White House two weeks after Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and warned that time was running short for a final deal and saying Israel could show it was serious by honouring a scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners this month. Now even this is being scrapped.
Ahead of the White House talks, thousands of Palestinians rallied in West Bank cities and Gaza to demand that there must be no surrender to the US and Israel.
The Palestinian masses will now demand action. They will call for the imposition of a worldwide trade and cultural boycott of Israel and unity in action by Fatah and Hamas to launch a Third Intifada to win the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, with no settlements, and no foreign troops on its borders and with all Palestinians having the right to return.