US Secretary of State John Kerry is arriving in Israel
on Tuesday as tensions surrounding peace talks
reach boiling point.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
recently told Fatah
officials that there has been no progress in the negotiations and warned talks could break down. He pointed a finger at Israel for linking the prisoners' release to an expansion in settlement building.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have met 15 times in the past three months. Meetings were held alternately in different locations in Jerusalem and Jericho, and lasted on average between three and four hours. The past two months have seen negotiations intensify as US envoy Martin Indyk joins the parties.
A meeting usually includes presentations by each side and the parties are then given time to raise questions and ask for clarifications. The parties discuss each one of the six core issues separately but have yet to touch on all six.
At the negotiating table (Photo: Reuters)
As per Israel's demand, the meetings thus far centered on the security issue. There have also been discussions on borders and water issues.
In terms of borders, the Palestinians proposed reverting to the 1967 lines with land swaps. Israel's starting point was to mark the Palestinian state's borders within the separation fence outline, with Israeli presence in the Jordan
Israel also proposed adding Beit-El, Psagot and Nokdim to the settlement blocs that will remain under Israeli sovereignty. The issue of Jerusalem will be discussed separately.
The Israeli team is led by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni
and Attorney Yitzhak Molcho, with the former being the more dominant figure. However the two were seen contradicting each other, failing to present a uniform stance and at times arguing in the presence of the Palestinian negotiators. This was evidenced in discussions on Jerusalem, when Livni presented a more liberal approach than Molcho.
The Palestinians are in fact so disappointed in the negotiations that PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo described the Israeli stance as "the worst in the past 20 years."
It appears the parties are going ahead because of their promise to Secretary Kerry.
Last month, the secretary of state convened an informal meeting of Israeli, Palestinian and US representatives at his Washington residence. Sources who attended the meeting quoted Kerry as saying that if the parties fail to reach an agreement within the allotted nine months, he would not be able to stop the Palestinians from joining the International Criminal Court.
Livni's office said in response: "We cannot address the report given Israel's pledge not to publically discuss the talks. In any case, it should be stressed that Justice Minister livni and the prime minister's special envoy Attorney Yitzhak Molcho are fully coordinated."
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