2013–14 Israeli–Palestinian peace talks
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the Israeli–Palestinian conflict
Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians began on 29 July 2013 following an attempt by United States Secretary of State John Kerry to restart the peace process.
Martin Indyk was appointed by the US to oversee the negotiations. Currently at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., during the Clinton administration he served as US ambassador to Israel, and was assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs.
The negotiations were scheduled to last up to nine months to reach a final status to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by mid-2014. They started in Washington, DC and will then move to the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and then to Hebron.
Pre-peace talk compromises
Before the peace talks began, both sides offered a gift. Palestine offered to put on hold international recognition as a state while Israel offered the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners, 14 of whom are Israeli citizens and all of whom have been in Israeli jails since before the 1993 Oslo I Accord. The prisoners were responsible for killing, in all, 55 Israeli civilians, 15 Israeli security forces personnel, one French tourist and dozens of suspected Palestinian collaborators.
Commenters have however pointed out that Israel had already promised to release these same 104 Palestinians, back in 1999 under the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, but never did. Critics also worry that Israel will simply quietly re-arrest the potentially released Palestinians, and state that Israel is using the slow release to hold the negotiations hostage and that the main goal of the release is to bolster Israel's image. According to the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee Report, Israel's decision not to release the prisoners at the time was due to significantly increased violence against Israel by their partner in the memorandum, the PLO, leading up to the Second Intifada. In the time leading up to the planned release, Israel perceived "institutionalized anti-Israel, anti-Jewish incitement; the release from detention of terrorists; the failure to control illegal weapons; and the actual conduct of violent operations" as a sign that "the PLO has explicitly violated its renunciation of terrorism and other acts of violence, thereby significantly eroding trust between the parties."
On 29 July 2013, as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met for a second day in Washington to discuss renewing peace talks, Mahmoud Abbas said "in a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands." His comments drew immediate condemnation from Israeli officials, who accused him for discriminating against Jews.
On 13 August, the first day, the Palestinian team leaders were Saeb Erekat and Muhammed Shtayyeh while their Israeli counterparts were Tzipi Livni and Isaac Molcho. The US mediators were Martin Indyk and Frank Lowenstein. On 19 August, Mahmoud Abbas called for the US to step up its involvement in the talks, saying its role should be proactive and not merely supervisory. On 20 August, Israel urged the United States to back Egypt's military government, saying failure to do so would risk derailing the peace talks. On 22 August, Mahmoud Abbas said that no progress had been made in the first four talks. He also said that the Palestinian right of return would likely have to be waived in the event of any peace agreement. He also walked back his earlier statement that he wanted a Palestinian state without a single Israeli; he said that what he meant was no Israelis who were "part of the occupation", but that he wouldn't have a problem with Jews or Israelis coming to Palestine for business or tourism reasons, as long as they were not an occupying force.
On 5 September 2013, Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said that Israel has yet to put any new offers on the table, that Israel has only allowed Martin Indyk to attend one of the six talks so far, and that the Palestinian leadership would not accept "temporary solutions", only a permanent peace deal. On 8 September, Israel accused the Palestinians of leaking information about the talks, which are supposed to be kept secret, to the press. An Israeli official also stated that some of the information leaked by Palestinians was not true. On 25 September, both Israel and the Palestinians agreed to intensify peace talks with an increased United States role.
On 26 September, Mahmoud Abbas spoke in front of the UN Security Council, and welcomed the resumption of peace talks while at the same time criticizing Israel's settlement building. The Israeli delegation was not present for Abbas' speech, because they were observing the holiday of Sukkot. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad called for a third intifada, and a spokesman for Hamas' armed wing said that the current peace talks were "futile".
On 17 October 2013, Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his view that he would not accept any Israeli military presence on Palestinian territory. On 22 October, Israel and the Palestinians are reported to have discussed the issue of water. On 27 October, Israel prepared to release another round of Palestinian prisoners to create a positive climate for the ongoing peace talks. On 28 October, Netanyahu categorically rejected the Palestinian right of return and said that Jerusalem must remain undivided.
On 6 November, Israeli negotiators said there will not be a state based on the 1967 borders and that the Separation Wall will be a boundary. On 14 November, the Palestinian team quit the negotiations blaming the "escalation of settlement-building."
On 4 December 2013, Saeb Erekat told John Kerry that the peace talks with Israel were faltering and urged Kerry to salvage them. Also, an Israeli newspaper reported that Israel was prepared to handle 2000 hectares (5000 acres, or 7 sq. mi.) of land to the Palestinians to show that it was prepared to allow Palestinian projects on these lands. The land had been privately owned by Palestinians but militarily occupied by Israel. On 26 December, Likud ministers led by Miri Regev began pushing a bill to annex the Jordan Valley, which would prevent Netanyahu from accepting the American proposal for the Jordan Valley and border crossings into Jordan to be placed under Palestinian control, with border security provided by IDF soldiers and the US. On 30 December, Saeb Erekat said that the peace talks had failed, citing the aforementioned Israeli bill to annex the Jordan Valley. Erekat said that denying the Palestinian state a border with Jordan would be a clear step toward apartheid, and that the PA should instead unilaterally seek international recognition and membership in organizations. Erekat also said that "Israel wants to destroy the two-state solution through its daily practices." The PLO senior official also rejected the idea of extending the peace talks beyond their nine-month deadline.
On 1 January 2014, Maariv reported that Israeli and American leaders had been discussing, and seriously considering, the possibility of ceding parts of the Arab Triangle to the Palestinians in exchange for Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The residents of the Triangle would automatically become Palestinian citizens if this happened. This idea is similar to the Lieberman Plan. Rami Hamdallah also said that despite Erekat's insistence that the talks had failed, the Palestinians would continue participating in the talks until the April deadline. On 5 January, hardliners in Netanyahu's coalition threatened to withdraw from the government if he accepted the 1967 borders as a baseline for talks. Dovish opposition parties, such as Labor, have said they would join if this occurs, in order to prevent the coalition from breaking up completely. On 9 January, according to insiders, support for a two-state agreement within the Knesset stood at 85 in favor to 35 opposed. In addition to the Labor Party, American negotiators were also attempting to persuade Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, both of which are generally supportive of the peace process, to join the government to keep negotiations alive.
On 10 January 2014, Israel approved plans for 1,400 settler homes. Saeb Erekat responded by saying "The recent announcement shows Israel's clear commitment to the destruction of peace efforts and the imposition of an apartheid regime". Tzipi Livni, who also opposed new settler homes, was responded by Israeli politician Ze'ev Elkin, who suggested the settlements were vital for Israel's security: “The path that Livni recommends means we will have to say goodbye to our security,” he said. On 14 January, Israel's defense minister Moshe Ya'alon rejected the negotiations and insulted John Kerry, saying he was acting based upon "messianic feeling", and that "The only thing that can 'save' us is that John Kerry will get a Nobel Peace Prize and leave us alone." Yuval Steinitz, another members of the Likud, expressed general agreement with Ya'alon's views, but disagreed with the personal insult. However, Yaalon later issued an official apology in a written statement sent to media from the Defense Ministry. On 18 January, Yair Lapid threatened to take his party, Yesh Atid, out of the coalition if peace talks did not advance. This would topple the current government and force either the formation of a new coalition, or early elections.
On 21 January 2014, Israel announced plans for 381 new settler homes in the West Bank. The Palestinians condemned this move, and also ruled out the possibility of the peace talks extending beyond the nine-month deadline. On 22 January, Abbas said he would like Russia to take a more active role in the negotiations. On 27 January, the Palestinians said they would not allow "a single settler" to remain in a Palestinian state, but that this did not stem from anti-Jewish attitudes. Rather, Jews living in the West Bank would have the option of remaining if they renounced their Israeli citizenship and applied to be citizens of Palestine. A poll has shown that 4.5% of Jewish settlers would consider becoming Palestinian citizens under such an arrangement. On 31 January, according to Martin Indyk, the framework for the US-backed Middle East peace deal will allow up to 80 per cent of Jewish settlers to remain in the West Bank. The deal would redraw borders so that some 80 per cent of settlers' homes would be redesignated as being in Israel, while other parcels land would be handed back to Palestinian control in a proposed land-swap deal. Another key point of the framework would be that Israel would be allowed to retain a role in maintaining security along the West Bank's border with neighbouring Jordan. The new security arrangements would see a zone created with hi-tech fences equipped with sensors and drone surveillance planes flying overhead. Also the final peace treaty could also provide compensation for victims on both sides of the historic conflict.
On 3 February 2014, Abbas suggests that US-led NATO troops patrol a future Palestinian state instead of Israeli troops having a presence in Jordan Valley, but Israeli settlers and soldiers have five years to leave Palestine once the state is formed. On 6 February, Israel reportedly seeks to annex 10 percent of the West Bank, but Palestinian negotiators insisted that they keep at least 97 percent. On 9 February, ministers voted down a proposal by Likud legislator Miri Regev to annex certain West Bank settlements and the roads leading to them.
On 28 March 2014, Israel failed to release the fourth tranche of 26 Palestinian prisoners, as scheduled, in what Palestinian sources say was a violation of the original terms for the peace talks, which included a Palestinian undertaking not to sign up for international conventions. After Israel withheld the prisoners' release, Mahmoud Abbas went ahead and signed 15 conventions regarding adhesion to human and social rights. Israel then demolished several EU funded humanitarian structures in E1 and stated the prisoners' release depended on a Palestinian commitment to continuing peace talks after the end of April deadline.  Several days later Israel approved 700 more Israeli settlements in Palestine followed by various sanctions against Palestinians.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said that if the peace talks failed, there would likely be a third intifada. Despite all efforts of John Kerry, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that if "there's no progress, and it's all Israel's fault" and blamed Israel, saying "the problem is with the Israeli side and not with us,"
EU Ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen said if peace talks fail, Israel will likely be blamed for the break down. Yair Lapid, Israel's finance minister said that the country could be targeted by an economically costly boycott if peace talks with the Palestinians fail, signalling that concerns about growing international isolation have moved centre stage in Israel's public discourse.
Some critics believe that Israel is only trying to "put on a show," claiming the Israelis do not seek a peace agreement, but are using these peace talks to further other goals, including improving their image, strengthening their occupation of Palestine, and decreasing the viability of Palestine as a state free of Israeli occupation.Henry Siegman faults the United States, arguing that it is 'widely seen as the leading obstacle for peace' for its repeated failure to use leverage against Israel, and for failing to impose red lines for an agreement, and leading Israeli leaders to believe no consequences would ensue were Israel to reject American proposals.
Other critics have blamed the Palestinian side, Mahmoud Abbas in particular, for he "lacks sufficient credibility with the West to fulfill and because of his past PLO association with the radical Yasser Arafat. If the Palestinians are serious about establishing a sovereign state, they must find leadership that is non-threatening to Israel and then serious negotiations can begin." Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Kerry "I want peace, but the Palestinians continue to incite, create imaginary crises and avoid the historical decisions necessary for a real peace."
Reactions to Israeli settlements approvals
Israel was accused by Palestinian officials of trying to sabotage the peace talks by approving nearly 1200 new settlement homes shortly before the negotiations were due to start. Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev stated that these settlements would "remain part of Israel in any possible peace agreements."
The British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said: "We condemn the recent decisions taken by the Israeli authorities to advance plans for 1096 settlement units in the West Bank, and to approve the construction of 63 new units in East Jerusalem. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, undermine trust and threaten the viability of the two-state solution."
On 13 August, Israel approved another 900 settler homes in East Jerusalem in addition to the 1200 settlements announced on the 10th. On 30 October, Israel stated it would go ahead with plans to build 3,500 more homes for Jewish Israelis in settlements in Palestine. Netanyahu then said "any further settlement construction may stir "unnecessary clashes with the international community".
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