Fatah, Israel snub Kerry draft peace plan

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on 30 June 2013. (Photo: AFP - Menahem Kahana)

Published Thursday, July 18, 2013

Updated at 6:50pm: Palestinian politicians rebuffed Thursday a peace blueprint hashed out by US Secretary of State John Kerry with president Mahmoud Abbas in a major blow to the American politician's marathon peace efforts.

A senior Fatah official said the party wanted changes to what Abbas had agreed.

"Fatah wants to make some alterations to Kerry's plan... because the proposed ideas are not encouraging for a return to negotiations," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The central committee is demanding, for a return to talks... that Kerry announce they should be based on the 1967 lines," said Amin Maqbul, secretary general of the ruling Fatah movement's Revolutionary Council.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied Thursday previous reports stating that Israel had agreed to a proposed formula for new peace talks with the Palestinians under which the border of their future state would be along lines that existed before the 1967 Middle East war.

An Israeli official had previously said on Thursday that Israel was open to talks based on the 1967 borders, but with agreed land swaps and Palestine recognizing Israel as a "Jewish state."

The rejection of the plan by the governing Revolutionary Council of Abbas's own Fatah movement before it had even been put to the wider Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which includes leftist factions more hostile to a compromise, meaning the blueprint was likely to be put on hold.

A US official acknowledged that Kerry was now unlikely to be able to announce a resumption of direct peace negotiations despite extending until Friday his sixth visit to the region in as many months.

"There are currently no plans for an announcement on the resumption of negotiations," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Kerry had urged Israel on Wednesday afternoon to carefully consider a 2002 peace initiative approved by the Arab League.

"Israel needs to look hard at this initiative, which promises Israel peace with 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim nations - a total of 57 nations that are standing and waiting for the possibility of making peace with Israel," he had said.

The plan, put forward by Saudi Arabia at an Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002, offered full recognition of Israel but only if it gave up all land seized in the 1967 Middle East war and agreed to a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees. Softening the plan three months ago, a top Qatari official raised the possibility of land swaps in setting future Israeli-Palestinian borders.

Kerry said on Wednesday after talks with Abbas in neighboring Jordan that gaps between the sides had "very significantly" narrowed. An Arab League committee endorsed Kerry's proposals for resuming peace talks, saying they "provide the ground and a suitable environment to start negotiations."

However, the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which are considered illegal under international law, is still to be resolved.

Palestinians are refusing to return to negotiations without a freeze on settlement activity, a possibility Israel has ruled out as it has greenlighted the constructions of hundreds of settlement homes in the past several months.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)


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