US, Egypt to press Israel for more gestures to restart peace talks

Monday, January 04, 2010 |  Israel Today Staff

The Obama Administration has decided to back an Egyptian initiative to get Israeli-Palestinian peace talks back on track that would require Israel to make a large number of upfront concessions, Al Jazeera reported on Sunday.

The news came just a week after a senior diplomat in Cairo told AFP that the Obama Administration had decided to launch a new peace initiative of its own based on letters of guarantee to both Israel and the Palestinians. The Arabs doubted the US initiative would work, since it did not offer the Palestinians the Jewish building freeze they demand.

The Egyptian initiative would reportedly require Israel to indefinitely halt all Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria and free hundreds of jailed Palestinian terrorists.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was in Cairo on Sunday where Arab leaders and Washington hoped he would approve the plan. However, some skepticism remained, as the Egyptian initiative apparently does not explicitly require Israel to halt construction in Jewish areas of eastern Jerusalem, which Abbas has made a new red line for restarting peace talks.

Israel has likewise not signed off on the initiative, according to Al Jazeera. But if Abbas accepts it, Egypt and the US intend to immediately invite Israel to a four-way summit.

If the Al Jazeera report is accurate, it would further affirm Abbas' ability to influence the policies of the US and other international power brokers by threatening to take drastic negative measures. On Saturday, Abbas threatened to end the Palestinian Authority's security cooperation with Israel, after the latter dared to hunt down three terrorists involved in last week's murder of Rabbi Avraham Chai.

Washington's reaction to Abbas' threats completely ignore the gestures and concessions Israel has already made to get the Palestinian leader back to the negotiating table, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel is fed up.

"We've made a series of gestures to Abbas, including [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's acceptance of a Palestinian state], the removal of West Bank roadblocks, the settlement construction freeze and allowing him to hold the Fatah conference in Bethlehem," Lieberman told Israel Radio. "We've made enough gestures."

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