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April 17, 2012 10:45 am

Litmus Test for Peace Talks During Jerusalem Meeting Between Israel and PA

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From left to right: Israeli PM Netanyahu, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: wiki commons.

The first meeting in nearly 20 months between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, was expected to take place Tuesday afternoon.  Fayyad chose to cancel his participation at the last minute, which Reuters and the Jerusalem Post attributed to a reluctance of “engaging Israel” on the same day in which over a 1,000 Palestinian prisoners decided to engage in a hunger strike.

Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defense Minister said on Tuesday morning that the meeting might be put off  altogether, and while other reports signaled that would not be the case, Fayyad did not show.  A letter to Netanyahu from PA President Mahmoud Abbas requesting a stop to Israel’s construction of settlements in the West Bank and the acceptance of pre-1967 borders as a basis for renewed negotiations was delivered by PA officials.

A meeting between lead Israeli peace negotiator Yitzchak Molco and Abbas is expected to take place within the coming weeks although it is not expected that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will accept any of the major preconditions set to be put forth by the PA for renewed talks.

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Speaking on Monday, Fayyad provided insight into some of the most intractable issues facing both sides in any renewed negotiations, following the failure of the most recent negotiations in late 2010.

“The Jordan Valley is not for rent or trade,” he said.  “There will be no Palestinian state without the Jordan Valley. The same as there will be no state without the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem as its capital.”

Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that his country’s security forces will need to operate in the Jordan valley in order to adequately protect Israel.

Internal Palestinian divisions between Fatah, which governs the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, continue to play a role in direct coordination with Israel, including the security arrangement between Fatah and Israel

“Continued security coordination poses a grave threat to the Palestinian cause and the interests of the Palestinians,” a Hamas spokesman said recently.

The United States has re-iterated it’s stance as recently as Monday that a Palestinian Authority attempt to gain statehood recognition at the United Nations would be vetoed by Washington.

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