US secretary of state John Kerry arrived in Israel last night, reportedly bringing with him bridging proposals for security arrangements in the West Bank as part of the proposed Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
This is the first time Mr Kerry, who will meet today with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, will bring American proposals to the negotiating table since the peace talks were re-launched in July.
US diplomatic officials said Mr Kerry and his security adviser, retired Gen John Allen, had been working on security issues in the hope of breaking the deadlock, believing that if the sides can reach agreement on security arrangements, then other issues may fall into place.
The sides are sworn to secrecy over the details of the negotiations but officials have indicated recently that there is little chance of clinching a comprehensive peace agreement by the April 2014 target date set by Mr Kerry.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who offered his resignation last month, urged Mr Kerry to salvage the peace talks.
“Mr Kerry must work to save the talks, to work to stop the deterioration of the talks caused by Israel’s continuing settlement activity and crimes committed in cold blood,” he told Palestinian radio.
Mr Erekat said the last negotiating session took place on November 5th and since then there has been communications with the Israeli side, but not “real negotiations”.
Mohammed Ishtayeh, Mr Erekat' deputy in the Palestinian negotiating team, said he resigned last month because the gaps with Israel were getting wider.
“Israel wants to annex the West Bank. It wants to give us some local autonomy over the people and annex the land.”
He said he had little faith in the American bridging proposals, accusing Washington of being biased toward Israel.
“We have to find an alternative to the bilateral talks with Israel because it’s not balanced, and the third party in these talks, the US, is making it unbalanced.”
In Brussels, Andreas Reinicke, the EU's special representative for the Middle East peace process, warned of serious consequences for both sides if the talks fail.
He said the European Union could stop its annual €300 million in aid to the Palestinians, a move which would likely cause the Palestinian Authority to collapse.
“If the talks fail, we will ask ourselves why continue to transfer hundreds of millions to the PA,” he said. “I believe that this aid will fade away on its own and stop.”