Middle East peace deal: Mahmoud Abbas’s choice – membership of the UN, or extend the negotiations

Ben Lynfield explains how a deal with Israel could yet be achieved

Jerusalem

Amid a growing atmosphere of crisis following the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, hopes were raised on Friday that the situation was by no means irreparable with neither side having yet taken action that would mark a final break from the negotiating process.

Palestinian analysts said it was likely that President Mahmoud Abbas would agree to extend peace negotiations beyond the 29 April deadline if he gained sufficient concessions from Israel to justify such a course. But the centrist Israeli politician Yair Lapid blamed Mr Abbas for the crisis. “Abbas should know that at this pointhis demands are acting against him. No Israeli will negotiate with him for any price,” he said.

The troubled peace process broke down this week over Israel’s failure to release a total of 104 prisoners in accordance with its commitment when the talks were launched last July. Mr Abbas responded by signing applications for Palestinian admission to 15 international treaties and conventions, something he had pledged to refrain from doing in exchange for the prisoner releases.

Israel, in turn, viewed the move as tantamount to ostracising it and therefore as incompatible with the negotiating process.

On Friday a downbeat US Secretary of State John Kerry, who had led Washington’s efforts to secure an elusive peace deal, appeared resolved to re-evaluate the US’s role in future talks. “It is regrettable that in the last few days both sides have taken steps that are not helpful,” he said. “There are limits to the amount of time and effort that the United States can spend if the parties themselves are unable to take constructive steps.”

However, Mr. Abbas is seen as not having closed the door on a deal to extend the negotiations because he is refraining from applying to the organization Israel is most worried about-the International Criminal Court-where Palestinians could advance complaints against the Israeli army and Israel's illegal building of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

On Thursday, Palestinian officials said they were setting as preconditions for extending the talks not only the release of the last batch of prisoners but also Israeli recognition that the Palestinian capital will be in occupied East Jerusalem. They will demand a total cessation of all construction at the settlements and the freeing of more than 1,000 additional prisoners. But some analysts question whether Mr Abbas will in fact adhere to all of these demands.

He must now choose between two options: expanding the drive for recognition in international organisations or coming to an agreement to extend the peace negotiations. The first course means moving away from talks that brought him little more than Israeli settlement expansion and nothing to show his people in the way of tangible gains towards statehood. There are major problems with this strategy, though. White House opposition to it could thwart a Palestinian bid for UN member state status. An even greater problem, as the Israeli political scientist Menachem Klein noted yesterday, is that gaining membership in international bodies “can be a symbolic gain but it won’t help the situation on the ground”.

In the view of Talal Awkal, a columnist for Al-Ayyam newspaper, Mr Abbas is still interested in extending the negotiations. “I don’t think we are seeing revolutionary change; he sees his main option as to go again to the negotiations,” he said. “His decisions this week are no more than messages to the Israelis and Americans that he has demands.” But there is no assurance that the message will be acted upon in Jerusalem and Washington.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - Commercial Training

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The business development manage...

The Richmond Fellowship Scotland: Executive Director

£66,192 per annum including car allowance of £5,700): The Richmond Fellowship ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Office Junior

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent