Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has confirmed that Kerry has been floating the Arab Peace Initiative as a way out of the current deadlock. Kerry had proposed key changes in the plan to lighten the language on borders, among other issues, to make the deal more attractive to the Israelis.
“Kerry asked us to change a few words in the Arab Peace Initiative but we refused,” Erekat told the Voice of Palestine radio station on Sunday.
Palestinian officials said, however, that if Kerry were able to secure goodwill gestures from the Israelis, they would agree to discussions over the language of the initiative.
Palestinian officials have long maintained that Israel must agree to a full freeze in settlement building before sitting down at the negotiation table. Current talks ground to a halt almost four years ago, and previous mediation efforts have failed to move the parties forward.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wouldn’t confirm a McClatchy report that quoted officials as saying Obama had won a two-month cooling-off period during which Israel would stop announcing settlement activities and Palestinians wouldn’t press their case before the United Nations or the International Criminal Court, allowing Kerry to work his diplomacy without absolute deal breakers. But Carney said those are actions the U.S. government has long championed as helpful to reviving talks.
“I can simply confirm that it is our position and it is a position the president reflected in his conversation that it is counterproductive for either side, whether it’s the Palestinians through the U.N. or the Israelis through settlement construction, to take unilateral action that makes it more difficult to engage in constructive negotiations towards peace,” Carney told reporters.
Frenkel is a McClatchy special correspondent. White House correspondent Lesley Clark contributed from Washington.