Palestinians snub peace talks after Israeli announcement

The Palestinians pulled out of a new round of indirect Middle East peace talks on Wednesday night, even before they had begun, as a protest at Israel’s decision to announce approval for hundreds of new homes in a Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem.

The decision to pull out, announced in Cairo by Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, represents a major setback to months of diplomacy by the United States administration and comes after the US Vice-President, Joe Biden, delivered an unusually strong rebuke to Israel.

Amr Moussa said he had been told by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that even this low-key process of so-called “proximity talks” could not start unless Israel stopped expanding its settlements.

“The Palestinian side is not ready to negotiate under the present circumstances,” Moussa said.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders have not held direct negotiations since Israel’s war in Gaza last year. The White House had won agreement on Monday from the two sides to begin the indirect talks, hoping they would lead to face-to-face meetings.

The Palestinians had insisted there would be no direct talks unless Israel halted all settlement expansion, in line with the demands of the US administration and the roadmap, which remains the framework of peace talks.

But Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, leading a right-wing coalition government, offered only a temporary, partial curb to new building.

Then, on Tuesday, hours after Biden met Israeli leaders, the Israeli Interior Ministry announced approval for 1 600 new apartments in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem. All settlements on occupied land are illegal under international law.

Israel’s opposition Kadima party said it is planning a no-confidence vote in the prime minister in Parliament for “destroying” the Biden visit.

On Wednesday, Biden emerged from talks with Abbas in Ramallah, on the occupied West Bank, and repeated his criticisms of the timing and substance of Israel’s announcement. “It is incumbent on both parties to build an atmosphere of support for negotiations and not to complicate them,” he said.

“The decision by the Israeli government to advance planning for new housing units in east Jerusalem undermines that very trust, the trust that we need right now in order to begin — profitable negotiations.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the Palestinians appreciated “the strong statement of condemnation” by the US administration.

Eli Yishai, Israel’s Interior Minister, apologised for the timing of the announcement, admitting that it had caused Biden “real embarrassment”. — guardian.co.uk

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Rory Mccarthy
Guest Author
Advertising

READ IT IN FULL: Ramaphosa’s address on the extension of...

This is the full address given by President Cyril Ramaphosa on April 9

Meet the doctor leading Africa’s fight to contain the coronavirus...

Dr Matshidiso Moeti’s father helped to eliminate smallpox. Now she’s leading Africa’s efforts against the coronavirus

Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world