Pessimism ahead of Abbas-Obama talks

Israeli defence minister predicts there will be no peace with Palestinians in his lifetime

Ahead of today's crucial White House talks between US president Barack Obama and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya'alon has predicted that peace between Israel and the Palestinians will not be attained in his lifetime.

Speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 television, Mr Ya’alon said Mr Abbas was not a genuine peace partner. “Mr Abbas is a partner for taking, but not a partner for giving. He’s not a partner for a final agreement, at the end of which there is recognition of Israel’s rights as the nation state of the Jewish people, an end of the conflict and an end to all demands. He says this openly.”

Negotiations deadline looms
Mr Obama, who met Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu earlier this month, will try to convince Mr Abbas to accept the framework agreement drawn up by US secretary of state John Kerry to enable the peace negotiations to continue beyond next month's nine-month deadline.

Such an agreement would prevent the total collapse of the talks and a major foreign policy embarrassment for the Obama administration. The two sides have not held direct talks for a couple of months and have failed to reach agreement.


Mr Abbas has indicated that he may be willing to extend the talks, but only if Israel agrees to a West Bank settlement building freeze and to release more Palestinians. Israel has ruled out further concessions to keep the Palestinians at the negotiating table.

According to Palestinian officials, Mr Abbas will tell Mr Obama that he rejects the Israeli demand to recognise Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

Recognition of Jewish state
The Palestinians believe that recognising Israel as a Jewish state would undermine their claim that Palestinian refugees have a right to return to present-day Israel.

Speaking to the house committee on foreign affairs last week, Mr Kerry said it was a mistake for Israel to insist on official recognition of the Jewish state. His comments prompted an angry response from Israeli officials who accused Washington of stepping up pressure on Israel because this was an easier option than confronting “Palestinian intransigence”.

In a separate development, Israel yesterday reopened the Kerem Shalom border crossing into Gaza closed last week in response to militant rocket fire, allowing the resumption of fuel delivery to Gaza's main power station which had shut down over the weekend.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem