Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has no legitimate right to negotiate with Israel on behalf of the Palestinian people, the Gaza-based Hamas leadership said Friday following US Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement of an impending round of talks.
“Hamas rejects Kerry’s announcement of a return to talks and considers the Palestinian Authority’s return to negotiations with the occupation to be at odds with the national consensus,” a senior spokesman for the Palestinian political party Hamas told AFP on Friday.
On Friday Kerry announced that Israeli and Palestinian officials would soon come to the US to get to work on the latest ‘roadmap’ to revive Mideast peace negotiations for the first time since 2010.
“We have reached an agreement that establishes the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Kerry said in Amman, Jordan, but warned that the negotiations would require “some very tough choices.”
The chief US diplomat did not elaborate on the details of the proposed action, but if everything goes as planned, the meeting between Israeli and Palestinian representatives could happen “within the next week or so.” Such a meeting would includes Saeb Erakat acting on behalf of the Palestinians and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni acting for her government.
Prior to the announcement, Kerry met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank. The Palestinian leader said that “lengthy talks … have resulted in the Palestinians accepting the resumption of talks.”
President Abbas’ spokesman confirmed Kerry’s announcement, highlighting that an advancement toward renewed talks had been made.
“Abbas’ meeting with Kerry in his headquarters in Ramallah on Friday evening achieved progress and will facilitate an agreement on the basis of a resumption of talks,” Nabil Abu Rudeina said in a press release.
Kerry’s announcement came as he visited the Middle East this week and after holding three meetings with Abbas during his current visit to the region.
But Hamas, the Islamist party that controls the Gaza Strip, outright rejected the possibility of renewed talks with Israel.
Another spokesman for the Hamas government, Ihab al-Ghassin, said that the Palestinian people will not accept such talks because “whoever negotiates on the part of the people who is not chosen by them, represents only himself.”
Following the announcement, an anonymous Israeli official told Reuters that if talks go ahead as planned, it would take would take months “to ensure the process is substantive and comprehensive, and to get us past September,” referring to the annual UN general assembly in September, where the Palestinians are lobbying for recognition of their claim of statehood in territory under Israeli occupation.
One of the main setbacks for resuming the negotiations has been a Palestinian condition of a border guarantee set at a cease-fire line that held until 1967, when Israel invaded and annexed the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
But because Kerry’s announcement did not reveal any details on the proposed meeting, speculations on the Palestians’ precondition reign in the air.
“The best way to give these negotiations a chance is to keep them private,” Kerry said. “We know that the challenge require some very tough choices.”
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not yet issued a statement on Kerry’s announcement.
The question of how much land Palestine will give to Israel rests on a 2003 two-state proposal known as the ‘road map for peace.’ A deal based on the 1967 lines have failed, with Israel refusing to talk to Hamas or accept preconditions set by Palestine.
Other points of disagreement also remain, especially questions over illegal Israeli settlements, the fate of East Jerusalem and the question of refugees.
Over half a million Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in specially-created settlements on Palestinian land that have been deemed illegal by the UN and many other organizations. Palestinians have repeatedly demanded a total freeze of construction on their land, which they hope would be included in a future Palestinian state.
East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, is also the Palestinian capital. However, the Netanyahu administration has made it clear that Jerusalem must remain Israel’s “indivisible and eternal” capital, though Tel Aviv is internationaly held as the country’s capital. Numerous settlements across the east of the city complicate any land settlement agreement for the proposed negotiations.
The refugee status is also a thorn in the talks. Palestinians want to bring their comrades home, along with their families, who were forced to leave during the ethnic cleansing that came as part of the establishment of the state of Israel. Tel Aviv previously rejected this notion over fears of losing a Jewish majority in Israel.