Jerusalem, Jan. 15 – Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators appeared to have made slight progress in fragile talks hosted in Jordan, with the two sides expected to meet again January 25 with a possible leadership summit in March.
Israeli officials reportedly said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will present a plan on borders and security at a summit meeting in March with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Netanyahu has repeatedly called for the resumption of full peace talks with no pre-conditions, but Abbas has demanded a complete freeze on Israeli construction in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem, as well as Israeli recognition of the 1967 borders in order to resume peace talks.
Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho and Palestinian negiator Saeb Erekat met in Amman this weekend under a Jordanian-sponsored attempt to restart full peace negotiations. The international Quartet, comprising the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia, asked both sides to submit their positions on the issues of borders and security by January 26. Aided by Jordan, the Quartet is trying to find common ground between the two sides.
In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman said the meetings were important and encouraging, but said the best way to end the settlements question “is to have a final negotiated solution that sets agreed borders; then the whole problem goes away. That’s why they have to negotiate with each other.”
At the same time, there has been little reported progress in reconciliation efforts between Abbas’ Fatah Party, that controls the West Bank, and Iran-backed Hamas, which ousted Fatah from power in the Gaza Strip in a bloody 2007 military coup.
Most Western countries recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization and despite ongoing attempts at Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, Hamas leaders have said they are committed to armed conflict with the goal of destroying Israel. A Hamas military document leaked online detailed Hamas efforts to gather military intelligence for targeting Israeli towns for rocket attacks, Israel’s leading Yediot Aharonoth newspaper reported Sunday.