Diplomacy founders as Abbas rejects Bibi talks
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.