Israel casts doubt on April target for Palestinian deal

JERUSALEM Tue Jan 7, 2014 2:26pm EST

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a statement to the press before a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a statement to the press before a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem January 2, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan Smialowski/Pool

Related Topics

Photo

Under the Iron Dome

Sirens sound as rockets land deep inside Israel.  Slideshow 

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's defense minister said on Tuesday wide gaps remain in peace talks with the Palestinians after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's latest visit and he cast doubt on the chances of reaching a final accord by an April target.

Negotiations on Palestinian statehood resumed in July after a three-year halt, with a nine-month target set for a permanent peace agreement, amid deep skepticism that a deal could be achieved to end the generations-old conflict.

"We are attempting to achieve a framework for a continuation of negotiations for a period exceeding the nine months in which some thought that we would be able to reach a permanent agreement," Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters.

"It is clear there are big gaps - they are not new - but it is definitely in our interest to continue the talks," he said in broadcast remarks, without defining the differences.

Adding to the skepticism, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel's negotiator, sounded a downbeat note in remarks to law students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"I don't want to achieve a deal at any price," Livni said. She hinted at security concerns, such as Hamas Islamists who oppose Washington's peace effort gaining influence in the West Bank where moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rules.

"I am not among those who believe we should throw the key to the other side and just hope Hamas doesn't catch it," she said.

The United States is trying to broker a "framework" of general guidelines to help bridge profound differences over issues including Jewish settlements on occupied land, Israel's demand for recognition as a Jewish state, the status of Jerusalem, borders, security arrangements and the future of Palestinian refugees, with details to be filled in later.

Before wrapping up his 10th visit to the region on Monday, Kerry said the two sides were making progress but there was still a chance no accord would be reached.

KERRY TO RETURN

Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, said on Tuesday that Kerry would return soon to continue his talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

"We will take into account the suggestions, the requests and wishes of the parties and I hope and we will work so that in a few weeks, or perhaps a month - I don't know how long - we will be ready to present a proposal for a framework on all the core issues," Shapiro said, speaking in Hebrew.

A senior Palestinian official said the Palestinian side was seeking a written framework agreement.

"We want it to address concrete issues, such as saying the Palestinian capital will be 'East Jerusalem', not just 'in Jerusalem'," the official said.

Palestinians seek to establish a state in the occupied West Bank and in Hamas-controlled Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel captured the areas in the 1967 Middle East war and pulled troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005.

Palestinians say continued Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and insistence on a permanent security presence in the territory's Jordan River valley border area are among the major obstacles to a deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has questioned Palestinians' commitment to peace, accusing their leaders of orchestrating "rampant" incitement against Israel.

Yaalon signaled that Israel was looking for a less rigid "framework" deal than Palestinians were seeking, in an apparent nod to concerns any formal agreement now could stoke opposition from hardline members of the Israeli government.

"We are not dealing with a framework agreement, but with a framework for the continuation of negotiations for a more lengthy period," Yaalon said.

Shapiro said that Kerry had sat for "many, many hours" with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and heard from them things that "perhaps nobody else has heard".

"Even though they have already taken brave decisions, he estimates they both have the ability to take more hard decisions with the support of their respective peoples," Shapiro said.

(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Allyn Fisher-Ilan in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (10)
buddygreen wrote:
It is easy to cast doubt when you have no intention of coming to an agreement

Jan 07, 2014 7:51am EST  --  Report as abuse
boreal wrote:
Aren’t there any capable people in the State Department at all, who could see through the tactics of America’s staunchest ally, that after decades of talks and more empty talk it is not now or ever was in the interest of Israel to earnestly make peace? The delays are only a ploy fooling everyone who believes them, to buy time, to illegally grab and keep as much Palestinian land as they can. Although Israelis are saying the land is theirs, they have title to it from the highest authority; since God Himself came down from high heavens, had a conversation with them and generously gave it to the Israelites.

Jan 07, 2014 7:54am EST  --  Report as abuse
Ittai wrote:
“Palestinians” are merely Jordanian nationals living in the liberated Judea and Samaria. There is no such nation as “Palestinians”. Those how call themselves “Palestinians” should be repatriated back to Jordanian – their home country.

Jan 07, 2014 8:18am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.