Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations despite Abbas, Netanyahu UN speeches

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Published Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah met on Tuesday with a senior Israeli official in Ramallah to discuss “mutual cooperation and the rehabilitation of Gaza.”

Senior sources from the Palestinian Authority and Israel have told the newspaper that the two central issues discussed in the meeting are permitting men over 60 to enter al-Aqsa Mosque for religious services during the Muslim holidays, and granting trade concessions that allow the exportation of Gaza-made products and goods (namely, fish) to the West Bank, as well as permitting the crossing of 200 merchants a day from Gaza to the West Bank.

Another issue being negotiated is easing some of the restrictions barring young Gazans from attending West Bank universities or even studying abroad.

The newspaper website also showed that there has been a consensus on raising “the age limit of Gazans allowed to visit family outside of the strip to 16.”

From his side, the Israeli source said that these agreements “are not suppose to bring about a peace deal and solve the conflict, but are something happening in addition to truce talks in Cairo.”

The public, yet indirect, channel of negotiations in Cairo is led by Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed and mediated by Egypt and comes after Israel and Palestine agreed last Tuesday to resume talks late next month on cementing a Gaza ceasefire, allowing time for Palestinian factions to resolve their divisions.

Abbas, Netanyahu UN speeches: no place for peace

Over the past week, speeches by the two leaders of Palestinian Authority and Israel at the UN General Assembly have laid bare how far apart the two sides remain, six months after Washington's latest peace push fell apart.

President Mahmud Abbas told the UN delegates on Friday it was impossible to return to "the cycle of negotiations that failed to deal with the substance of the matter and the fundamental question" of Palestinian statehood.

Abbas accused Israel of waging a "war of genocide" during the recent conflict in Gaza, which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, mostly militants.

Experts said Abbas, who has led the Western-backed Palestinian Authority for nearly a decade, made clear he has no more patience for Washington's longstanding peace efforts.

"The most important point from the speech is that the Palestinians are now rejecting American supervision of the negotiations, which for years have led to nothing," said Wasel Abu Yussef, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, famed for his bombastic speeches at the Assembly, also left no doubt during his address on Monday that he saw no future in pursuing talks in their current format.

Accusing Abbas of spreading "brazen lies,” Netanyahu said it was time to move on from the framework of direct peace talks -- as laid out nearly 20 years ago in the Oslo Accords.

"The old template for peace must be updated," he said.

That template -- meant to deal with so-called "final status" issues like the return of Palestinian refugees, the border of a Palestinian state and the fate of Jerusalem -- was revived during the nine months of US-backed negotiations that collapsed in April.

The talks that started in July 2013 ended eventually following a dispute over Israel's failure to free Palestinian prisoners and Israeli fury over a unity deal between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, the main stumbling block was the ongoing construction of Jewish settlements.

A few months later, a bloody seven-week war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza put paid to any remaining illusions about a resumption of talks.

The Palestinians are now focusing on other diplomatic avenues to achieve their promised state, including moves to secure a UN Security Council resolution setting a timeframe for ending the occupation.

They are also mulling a war crimes case against Israel at the International Criminal Court, though they have not yet joined the body despite being able to do so since winning the rank of UN observer state in 2012.

Israel allows Gazans in Aqsa on Adha

Israel will allow 500 residents of the Gaza Strip to pray in occupied East Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque next week for the first time since 2007, a government source has said.

Permits issued by Israel will allow the Gazans to pray inside the al-Aqsa for three days starting Sunday, the source, from the Palestinian Civil Affairs Ministry, told Anadolu Agency.

Ever since Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections, Israel has imposed a tight land and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip.

(AFP, Anadalou, Al-Akhbar)>

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