Palestinians to walk away from peace talks

President Abbas blames Israeli settlements for failed bid to revive top-level negotiations

Jerusalem

The Palestinians were last night preparing to walk away from talks with Israel aimed at reviving peace negotiations as international mediators frantically shuttled between Ramallah and Jerusalem in an attempt to keep the peace process alive.

Palestinian representatives believe that negotiations have run their course as a deadline for both sides to present proposals on borders and security expires today. Israel, which has criticised the deadline as "artificial," said talks should continue.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, said yesterday that the talks aimed at reviving top-level negotiations had ended without progress. "If we determine the borders it is possible to return to negotiations, but the Israelis don't want to determine the borders," he said.

While mounting international pressure may yet persuade Mr Abbas to keep talking, the Palestinians are increasingly convinced that Israel's hawkish Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is unwilling to make the compromises necessary for a two-state solution.

The Palestinians want Israel to accept the pre-1967 borders as a basis for negotiations, and halt Jewish settlement construction – deemed illegal in international law – in the occupied West Bank, the acceleration of which has convinced many that a two-state solution is moving out of reach. On both counts, Israel's right-wing government has refused to yield.

Reflecting the mood in the Palestinian camp, one official said: "For us, it's over... Israel chose to [promote] settlements over peace". Previously, Mr Abbas has warned that he would employ "other measures" to isolate Israel if the talks fail. It is thought that this could include reviving a UN statehood bid and asking the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes during the Israeli invasion of the Palestinian-controlled Gaza strip in 2008.

The Quartet of Middle East peacemakers, comprising the US, the EU, Russia and the UN, which is represented by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, said in October that both sides should present proposals and wrap up exploratory talks within three months, or by 26 January. Israel has refused to do so, claiming that it has until April.

Low-key meetings, mediated by Jordan, were launched with little fanfare at the beginning of January in a last-ditch attempt to bring the two sides together.

Baroness Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief on a visit to the region, said yesterday "we need to keep talks going and increase the potential of these talks to become genuine negotiations".

Israeli officials have rejected the notion that they are responsible for the looming break-off in talks, arguing that the Palestinians had fixed on an "artificial date" to create an "artificial crisis".

"They would be making a mistake if they are looking for excuses to leave the table," an Israeli official said. "Walking away...is not going to solve anything."

But some Israeli analysts say responsibility lies primarily with Mr Netanyahu's administration, which is seen as loath to make tough political compromises in the absence of compelling external or domestic pressures.

The last top-level talks collapsed in September 2010 following another row over settlements. In an effort to break the deadlock and move the conflict into the international realm, Mr Abbas launched a doomed statehood bid at the UN a year later, drawing Israeli fury which prompted a range of punitive measures.

There has been lukewarm international support for Mr Abbas's UN bid, but some are calling for a new approach to resolve the conflict. "The Quartet has failed," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said last week. "Let's stop kidding ourselves. We have to widen the circle of negotiations and involve everybody who can help resolve the conflict."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk