U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled Sunday morning to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and other top PA officials before leaving the region.
It is Kerry’s third meeting in as many days with Fatah leadership as he pressures the PA to cooperate on returning to the negotiating table for final status talks with Israel.
Time is running out, the American leader has warned both sides. The September convention of the United Nations General Assembly is barely two months away, with another opportunity for Abbas to launch an unproductive unilateral initiative in the international forum.
The meeting follows a sleepless Saturday night in which the American secretary of state met for hours with Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Political advisers, top military brass and legal experts joined the prime minister for Saturday night’s meeting with Kerry – a sign that this meeting was significant. Kerry met late Friday with President Shimon Peres in what the president referred to as a "Tel Aviv Sabbath."
Kerry also cancelled a dinner meeting scheduled for Saturday night in Abu Dhabi as part of his Middle East tour through the Gulf region to coordinate support for rebels in the civil war raging in Syria, AFP reported.
The US secretary of state is expected to hold a news conference to update media on the progress of talks with Israel and the PA – or lack thereof – prior to leaving for Brunei, where he has a meeting on Monday.
Over the weekend there were media reports that a four-way summit in Jordan was about to be announced, involving Israel, the PA, Jordan and the U.S.
The Jordanian Al-Arab Al-Yawm newspaper reported Saturday that Israel had given its consent to resume talks, discuss a Jewish construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, draw the borders of a future PA state and to release terrorists – all as goodwill gestures to entice the PA back to the negotiating table.
Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan, a member of the security cabinet, denied the report on Saturday night and said the two sides are not yet close to resuming talks. Speaking on Channel 2's “Meet the Press,” Erdan said that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas still insists on imposing the same preconditions he has stood by for the past three years.
Abbas has been unwilling to budge in demanding that Israel freeze all Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem restored to the capital in the 1967 Six Day War, and recognize the 1949 Armistice Line as a designated border for any future PA state, as a precondition for re-entering final status talks. Such an agreement would constitute a de facto agreement and largely negate the necessity for negotiations, in addition to recreating an existential threat to the State of Israel and abandoning Judaism's holiest sanctuaries.
Israel has “no intention to respond to them,” Erdan said.