Palestinians find Kerry’s Formula for Talks Insufficient


kerry Abbas 040813The Palestinian political leadership did not approve Secretary of State John Kerry’s plan for returning to peace talks with Israel as expected Thursday afternoon, dulling mounting hopes that Washington’s intense diplomatic push might soon yield a breakthrough.

Emerging from a two-hour meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, several of the leaders said the formula Mr. Kerry had proposed was insufficient because it did not require a freeze of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank or insist that new negotiations be based on Israel’s 1967 borders with minor adjustments. The group formed a committee to review the plan in more detail on Thursday night and make recommendations to the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization on Friday.

“We are not in a rush in taking decisions,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee. “We are trying to behave in responsibility and wisdom. We are not under pressure.”

The leadership meeting came a day after a strong statement from Arab League foreign ministers offering “full support” to Mr. Kerry’s efforts and saying his ideas “lay the proper foundation” for “serious negotiations to address all final-status issues.”

But the Palestinians differed. “The general atmosphere shows that the United States formula is not a proper base for resuming negotiations,” said Qaif Abdul Kareem, a member of the Palestinian legislative council. Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the P.L.O.’s central council, added, “The majority are against returning back to negotiations without freezing settlements and without a clear reference to negotiations based on 1967 borders.”

Mr. Abbas and the leaders closest to him did not speak to reporters after the session, though one top official in his Fatah faction, Azzam al-Ahmad, walked out before it was over, declaring, “What is offered is not enough.”

The details of Mr. Kerry’s formula remained unclear. The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported on its Web site on Thursday that the Americans would announce talks conducted on the basis of the 1967 borders and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, but that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Mr. Abbas would be allowed to declare their opposition to those terms even as they participated. Israeli and Palestinian officials would not confirm or deny that report.

Direct talks between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas broke down in late 2010 after 16 hours of work over three weeks. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators continued to meet until early 2012, but the peace process has been essentially stalemated.

Mr. Kerry has made reviving the process a primary focus since taking office, and this week he made his sixth visit to the region since March, meeting Mr. Abbas for five hours on Tuesday night and again on Wednesday in hopes of getting him to sign on.

Even before the Palestinian leadership meeting broke up, Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman traveling with Mr. Kerry, said, “There are currently no plans for an announcement for the resumption of negotiations.”

NY Times