Palestinian Authority officials expressed disappointment Thursday with the Obama administration’s stance on Israel-PA negotiations. The PA will not negotiate with Israel or America until its demand that Jews be forbidden to build east of the 1949 armistice line is met, they said.
Sources in the PA told the Saudi daily Al-Watan that the U.S. had passed along a document that discussed certain “final status” issues, among them borders, the distribution of water resources, the problem of millions of Arabs descended from those who fled Israel in 1948, who are now stuck in “refugee” status, and the status of Jerusalem.
The U.S. statement of principles was unclear, and did not mention support for borders based on the 1949 armistice line, or for the PA’s demand that Israel give it those parts of Jerusalem that were occupied by Jordan from 1948 until 1967, PA officials said.
Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior member of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, criticized the Obama administration’s position as “confused.” He called on American leaders to explicitly state their position on the borders of a potential Arab state in Judea and Samaria, and on security issues.
The PA is hoping for U.S. support in demanding borders based on the armistice line, instead of borders based on the current patterns of Israeli and PA Arab settlement, as suggested by Israeli leaders. It has had some success in getting U.S. support for its demands for Jerusalem, as U.S. officials under President Barack Obama announced in 2009 that they view Jews living in the east, north and south of Jerusalem as “settlers,” and that the eviction of Arab squatters from Jewish-owned homes in those areas is “unacceptable.”
A brief round of “proximity talks” between Israel and the PA broke down when Abbas announced that he would not negotiate if Jews were allowed to build homes east of the armistice line. He demanded a total ban on building that would include even the construction of community buildings such as schools and daycare centers within existing Jewish communities, and additions to existing homes.
Abbas’ demand followed a 10-month voluntary Israeli building freeze, during the first nine months of which the PA refused to negotiate with Israel.
U.S. diplomats are now attempting to talk the PA into “parallel talks” that would see Israel and the PA discuss issues with American negotiators, instead of with each other. The PA has responded to the latest initiative by reiterating its demand for a total freeze on building for Israelis.