Diplo­macy founders as Ab­bas re­jects Bibi talks

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

A SCHED­ULED meet­ing this week be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Benjamin Ne­tanyahu and US State Sec­re­tary John Kerry was not ex­pected to yield a diplo­matic break­through that could re­duce the vi­o­lence.

Ex­pec­ta­tions sur­round­ing an­other planned meet­ing be­tween Mr Kerry and Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas were equally low.

Ear­lier this week, Mr Ab­bas had re­sisted Amer­i­can re­quests for him to join them in a con­fer­ence with Mr Ne­tanyahu.

Sources in Mr Ne­tanyahu’s of­fice said that he would not be of­fer­ing the Pales­tinian Author­ity any con­ces­sions be­fore Mr Ab­bas agrees to re­turn to ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Mr Ne­tanyahu was sched­uled to meet Mr Kerry, who is mak­ing an un­sched­uled visit to Europe and the re­gion in Ber­lin on Thurs­day.

The prime min­is­ter’s visit to Ber­lin for talks with Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel was orig­i­nally sched­uled to take place two weeks ago, but was post­poned ow­ing to the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion.

Mr Kerry will be con­tin­u­ing to Jor- dan, where he will meet Pres­i­dent Ab­bas, as well as the Hashemite King­dom’s King Ab­dul­lah.

The Amer­i­cans orig­i­nally hoped that Mr Kerry could bring both the Is­raeli and Pales­tinian lead­ers to­gether in Am­man, but de­spite Mr Ne­tanyahu pub­licly agree­ing to meet his Pales­tinian coun­ter­part, Mr Ab­bas has re­fused a meet­ing.

The of­fi­cial rea­sons for his re­fusal are Pales­tinian de­mands that Is­rael agree to a com­plete “set­tle­ment freeze” and to the re­lease of a group of 26 Pales­tinian pris­on­ers. Is­rael had orig­i­nally agreed to re­lease the cap­tives in March 2014 b u t k e p t t h e m i n pri­son af­ter the Pales­tinian Au­thori t y r e f used to con­tinue ne­go­ti­a­tions.

A more im­me­di­ate rea-

Ab­bas son for Mr Ab­bas’s re­fusal to en­gage in di­rect talks is his re­luc­tance to be seen by the Pales­tinian pub­lic as co-op­er­at­ing with Is­rael in try­ing to sup­press the cur­rent round of vi­o­lence.

The Ne­tanyahu-Kerry meet­ing will be tak­ing place af­ter a pro­longed pe­riod of un­ease be­tween the US and Is­rael over the Ira­nian nu­clear deal, which Mr Kerry spear­headed.

Is­raeli min­is­ters were en­raged last week when a US State Depart­ment spokesman ac­corded equal blame to the Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans for the re­cent vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing ques­tion­ing Is­raeli forces’ use of “ex­ces­sive mea­sures”.

While the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has since slightly mod­er­ated its tone to­wards Is­rael, Mr Ne­tanyahu is hop­ing that the meet­ing with Mr Kerry will yield a clear af­fir­ma­tion from the Amer­i­cans that Is­rael is not at­tempt­ing to change the “sta­tus quo” on Tem­ple Mount and join it in op­pos­ing a French pro­posal to sta­tion in­ter­na­tional ob­servers there.

PHOTO: FLASH 90

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