PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas is to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris today to discuss the peace talks with Israeli, US and Palestinian officials, it was confirmed on Monday.
The top US diplomat has spent months trying to get the two sides to agree on a framework for resolving the decades-old conflict, but the negotiations have shown little sign of progress, as the US has seen its role as being to persuade the Palestinians to accept what Israel wants.
In fact, Kerry has been demanding that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
This would put an end to any idea that Palestinians had the right to return to the homes that they were driven out of by terror and force of arms in the 1948 ‘Catastrophe’.
It would also establish that non-Jews living in Israel had no right to be there, inviting Israel to expel them at any time that it wished to do so.
Kerry is also peddling the notion that Israel, one of the most heavily armed states in the world, has a legitimate fear of the Palestinians and that this fear demands, at the least, that Israeli troops be stationed on the borders of the Palestinian state with Jordan and Egypt.
A compromise suggestion was that US or NATO troops on these borders could give Israel the same sense of security.
A senior Palestinian official confirmed that Abbas left for France on Tuesday for the meeting, which he said had been requested by Kerry, who has been in Abu Dhabi.
‘The Palestinian positions are known and we have reiterated them at all the meetings with Kerry and his advisers,’ the official said.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed the meeting, saying they would ‘discuss the ongoing negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis’.
On Sunday, Abbas struck a conciliatory tone on two of the most divisive issues, saying he did not want to ‘flood Israel’ with returning Palestinian refugees and that there was no need to ‘re-divide’ Jerusalem.
Resolving the question of the right of return for Palestinian families who fled or were forced out of their homes during the war which accompanied Israel’s independence in 1948 is one of the most bitterly disputed issues in the conflict.
Jerusalem is also deeply divisive, with Israel viewing the entire city as its ‘eternal, undivided’ capital and the Palestinians demanding a capital in the eastern sector of the city captured by Israel in the 1967 war.
Abbas suggested on Sunday that there could be two municipalities in the city with a supervisory body to coordinate between them.
Israeli President Shimon Peres on Monday hailed Abbas’ remarks on the refugee issue, which he said showed the Palestinian leader’s ‘seriousness about reaching peace’.
During his most recent visit to the region last month, Kerry presented both sides with a draft framework agreement addressing the so-called ‘final status issues’ – Jerusalem, the refugees, borders and security.
The mass of Palestinians are now worried at the enormous pressures that will be heaped onto Abbas to get him to accept positions that are unacceptable to Palestinians but very welcome for Israel.
All Palestinians remember that Yasser Arafat faced the same pressure at the Camp David talks, when he was urged by Clinton to drop the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
He refused and sealed his fate. He returned to Palestine to be virtually put under house arrest in Ramallah, where he was eventually poisoned by Israeli agents.
The demands of the Palestinian masses are clear and to the point.
They are that Fatah and Hamas must unite on the following principled basis:
That any settlement of the Palestinian issue must have at its centre, that the Palestinian capital will be East Jerusalem, that Palestinians will not recognise Israel as a Jewish state and will insist on the right to return of all Palestinian refugees.
Further, that all talk of foreign troops on Palestine’s borders whether they be with Israel, Jordan or Egypt be dropped, and that all settlements in the West Bank must be evacuated with their inhabitants having the right to return to Israel or their former homes in the US or Europe.
This is what the Palestinians wish to see.